Only a present
4 x 6. Cardstock, paper, oil pastels, fabric, glue
34 in the It's Only a Book project in which I'm deconstructing my 2003 book, Grace: A Memoir, and turning it into art. Sent to Conceptual Continuity, which documents the "tenuous thread that, outside and above individual projects and personal experiences, connects the work of Ray Johnson to the current Mail Art." An exciting aspect of taking part in Conceptual Continuity is that I had to learn more about Ray Johnson. Below you'll find links to the highlights of my inquiries.
Ray Johnson lived from 1927 to 1995. The title of this piece is taken from his statement that "Mail art has no history, only a present." Johnson was an authority on the topic; his steadfast and brilliant engagement with mail art encouraged the acceptance of textual-visual correspondence as a category of art in its own right. The website for his estate has a dozen examples of his art on this page with additional photos scattered across the site.
A splendid essay by Clive Phillpot leads me to think that Johnson managed in his mail art to document visually his own stream of consciousness.
In the art-themagazine archives, you can see some Ray Johson bunnies, read all about them, and learn about How to Draw a Bunny, a documentary on Johnson's life and work.
If you can read French, check out comments by Guy Bleus; if not, go to the website anyhow and look at the pictures.
You can even grab a piece of Ray if shopping is your deal. Click over to cafe press and buy some items from the HistoRay Johnson fan club.
There's more great mail art at Ruud Janssen's IUOMA & Tam blog -- and you can read up on current mail art calls at another of Rudd's blogs, Mail Art Projects.
Maurizio Follin, who is hosting Conceptual Continuity, also has more mail art on his other blog, It's Only Mailart. Just in case you're wondering: No, Maurice didn't borrow the phrase from Francine Prose the way I did. He borrowed it from Frank Zappa.
I'll be posting more links. Right now, though, the glue on Only a present has dried enough for me to scan it, so I'm off.
P. S. I have to add that I love this piece. I say that about every piece right after I finish it, but Only a present has additional elements that please me. Mostly, it's the dual function of the piece. If you know nothing about Ray, you can still respond to it as a piece of mail art. If you're familiar with Ray, though, you see the tenuous threads I've used to connect -- and disconnect -- my work and Ray's.
I could exploit even further this project of deconstruction (my project, It's Only a Book) if I were to deconstruct the mail art I created for Maurizio's project, Conceptual Continuity. Nah, I don't want to do that, except to say that Ray drew or stamped his bunnies, while my bunny is cut from fabric (because I love the texture that textiles add to mail art).
Tenuous, yet also strong.