Mail Artists Deliver

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), October 26, 2005 | Go to article overview

Mail Artists Deliver


Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Art is what we say it is, according to one contemporary definition.

But a new art exhibit in Springfield has taken that notion to a higher bureaucratic level: In the International Mail Art Exhibit now on display at City Hall, art is what we say it is - so long as it has a stamp attached.

That's one of the prerequisites for mail art, explains Ed Black, the city's maintenance director and the moving force behind the show, which took more than a year to pull together and drew more than 350 submissions from 25 countries around the world. The rule is simple: Mail art has to have gone through the mail.

You can easily spend an hour looking at the huge range of artworks that arrived in Springfield via the U.S. Postal Service in recent months: a mannequin's foot, with stamps attached. A tiny violin in a bottle. Pieces of highway reflector glued to a postcard. Faux postage stamps that say "Mail Heart" and "Mail Art Land Atlantis." A booklet the size of a matchbook with a Belgian stamp on one side and Springfield's address on the other. A rubber office stamp that would say, if you stamped it, "Dada is Everywhere."

"Mail art gives this kind of freedom to communicate with pieces of art and establish connections with people you really only know through this kind of correspondence," explains Black, who got the support of the Springfield Arts Commission and a postcard printer, 4by6.com, for the show.

"You exchange pieces of art and ideas. That is really about it. I am not an artist. I just play around with it."

Despite his modesty, Black has played around with mail art for two decades. He enters perhaps 150 mail art shows a year. He uses the name "Eddie Nero" for his mail art creations - "nero" is an Italian word for "black" - and is fond of printing his own artistic stamps, which feature an Indonesian word for "black."

Black - or Nero - learned about mail art in the 1980s from his friend, Sweet Home artist Guido Bondioli, who says mail art is almost as old as the idea of postage, though it's associated most strongly with Dada, the anarchistic early 20th century art movement.

"There are shows like this going on everywhere," Bondioli says. "People here in Oregon have not really participated much. There are a few other mailers in the Lane County area. …

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