Monday, September 30, 2013

In case you wondered about Mail Art

Mail art is art created specifically to be sent through the mail. I've participated in shows where a painted, embellished, addressed and sufficiently postage stamped men's shoe came through the mail. I've gotten a stuffed toy with an address tag around its neck and postage...somewhere.  Since I began rubber stamping in the 1980s, I have loved mail art, not knowing at first that it had a name, but knowing it gave me pleasure to fill the envelopes in which I paid my bills with images and words.

The first two samples are drawn on corrugated cardboard and colored with soft-lead color pencils, my favorite medium.  Sent as postcards, they have the address and message - and postage - on the back.

Below is an illustrated, regular greeting card-size envelope.  Since the whole of the front is filled, simply turn it over putting the postage and address on the flap side.  Problem solved.

The final two photos are of pieces sent to a mail art exhibition which were then auctioned to raise money.  There will be another show this year, Postmarked 2013 for the Claremont Forum's Prison Library Project. The requirement was that the art, address and stamps all be on one side.  The sock puppet is done on corrugated cardboard.  The yellow bunny, my alter ego and profile picture in a smaller size, was cut from heavy watercolor board, a front and a back, which I glued together around the outside edge.  On his back, the bunny has a backpack with a flap that can be opened and contains a message to whoever won him in the auction.  You can see he is more than a foot tall and very sturdy.  Both also colored with color pencil.
There are multiple sources of mail art inspiration - blogs such as Merissa Cherie (and the Happy Mail Project), plus the link for Postmarked 2012 at the project site above, and two grand books called GOOD MAIL DAY and MAIL ME ART.   You can also find many, many mail art advocates, ways to participate and things you didn't even know you wanted to learn by Googling "mail art" or "blogs about mail art" and don't let them send you to blogs about nail art, which they will try to do.

Please come back tomorrow for a companion post about rubber stamping.

(All images copyright Marylinn Kelly)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gloria wool-gathers over fabrics past

Vintage fabrics, of which the starfish aloha shirt was an extraordinary example, caused Gloria's breathing and pulse to quicken.  Thinking of her neighbors, gleeful and resplendent in their own tropical prints, took her attention away from the baking marathon intended to replenish depleted stores.  Hers was, for the moment, a gingerbread house without gingerbread. 

In a half-dreaming state, Gloria saw herself seated in her grandparents' breakfast room, girl hands touching bits of cut-work and cross-stitch on the tablecloth within her reach as her grandfather said grace over the oatmeal.  On other days the slightly rough cotton might be printed with larger-than-life roses or fruit in colors nature never caused.  The light-filled room itself, with French doors on the east end and windows on the south, adjoined the kitchen through a swinging door that shared the west wall with a built-in, glass-fronted china cabinet, through the doors of which she could always see the ceramic gingham dog and calico cat that were perhaps her favorite treasures in that place of warmth and cheer and loving company.

Gloria kept a stack of freshly washed and ironed vintage cloths in plain sight where they added, she believed, to the mood or flavor of her shop.  She had never used the word ambiance and was not likely to start now.  Some of what she used on her tables - not on every one for the wood itself was also display-worthy - had been mended long before they came to her.  While she did not have a visual memory of her grandmother patching or darning or reweaving any of the tablecloths, she saw herself learning to iron her grandfather's handkerchiefs and eventually the smaller cloths for the breakfast table.  To those her grandmother soon added the one-piece, sleeveless, button-up woven cotton underwear favored by Grandpa.  She wondered when they'd stopped manufacturing the suits and what he had done when that happened.  Or perhaps  in some well-maintained factory in a town with a name like Unionville or Saratoga, the undersuits were still created, supervised by the (at least) great-great-great-great-grandson of the company's founder, who believed that decency and good taste never went out of fashion. 

Sometimes Gloria wished the world could be more like fiction and such anachronisms could exist, the sewing workers taking regular coffee breaks, enjoying lunches brought from home as they sat on a patio that overlooked a river, waving affectionate good-byes at the end of a reasonable work day.  Meanwhile, a quality-control department was inspecting each garment for the least flaw, then trundling them along to shipping for folding carefully around tissue printed with the company's name in copperplate script as it had been since the beginning.  Fabric, like china and silverware, were time machines for Gloria.  She wondered just for a moment about reincarnation, then turned her attention back to the ripe strawberries sweetening the kitchen air.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Expansion, not reinvention

The persistent sense that there is so much more for me to be has begun, not to haunt me, but to push, pull, call, wheedle, urge, even promise.  This is a place unlike any I've been before.  I trust it, this sense, and am paying close mind to where I next set my foot - or hand.

Could be this is the continuation of the integration post, the wholeness essay, the making the seemingly disparate pieces somehow work together musing.

Alice Vegrova, an artist I follow on FB for the stunning work of international illustrators which she shares in volumes every day, showed us crows this morning, the very symbols of prophetic insight and magic, supporting the power of transformation.

We have heard and read much over the years about people reinventing themselves.  The authentic assignment is not about reinvention but expansion, realization.  Something about reinventing stirs an image of faking your own death, kicking aside all you've been in favor of something that, it is believed, will be more marketable, attractive, will generate more publicity, will carry no hidden shame, no visible human flaws and will erase memories of the former, less-appealing self.

I have read, within the last few days, that it is essential for us to fall in love with ourselves.  Nothing short of that will create an embrace strong enough, a devotion deep enough to produce the magnitude of transformation that crows seem to foretell.  Yes, we are told, bring the old you along and in the process lose fear and under-valuing, trade apathy and fatigue for the chance to realize dreams, to witness miracles.  I hope with all passion that I know what I'm talking about, that I really do have the right stuff for shape-shifting.  I have never been a daredevil, an intentional taker of risks.  For much of my life I've been reticent, timid and cautious, except for those telling times when I wasn't and I feel the price I paid for that foolishness was much too high.  This is different.

The author reserves the right to delete all of this if she is temporarily out of her senses and is once again restored to an abundance of plodding and inaction.  The last time I rode a roller coaster, a press preview of Colossus at Magic Mountain back in the 1970s, as the cars left the loading area, I felt as though I'd signed on to be launched into space in an orange crate.  Not quite that queasy about all of this but parts of it feel familiar.  Colossus returned me to solid ground, a bit shaken, possibly bruised.  I am still fascinated by the fact of a roller coaster but no longer volunteer for the journey.  Please wish for me that this is less of an up-and-down business.  It seems awfully late in the day to add to my repertoire so emphatically.  If there is more to report, I will return with tales.  Otherwise, we will not speak of this again.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Quiet gratitude in Billington's Cove

Hand-built pottery by Julie Whitmore.
Billington's Cove, practically a sentient creature in its own right, found a reasonably painless path by which to return to, as some choose to call it, normal.  Those who fished, fished.  Those who lay about resumed that with happy lethargy.  Thinkers thought, the baker baked, gossips conspired, tides ebbed and flowed.  Over years, generations, Cove dwellers had practiced until they were masters the art of appreciation for gifts bestowed, benevolence at the whim or plan of the universe.  They did not pine for additional days of outdoor picture shows nor grumble as the sno cone cart was wheeled back into storage. 

Here there would be no Christmas lights left up and burning past New Year's Eve to prolong the holiday (simple love of outdoor lighting was, of course, welcomed).   No jack o'lanterns hunched on porches on Nov. 1, though many were cleverly turned around to present the uncarved pumpkin face to an autumn-gripped world.  It was not so much that there were rules, more that time had helped develop a collective ability to let the good of a moment or a day or a season be enough.  The ethic involved a deeply-held and never discussed - because there was no need - blend of optimism and trust that what was concluded would return.  It was a belief that did not impair the ability or inclination of a Cove resident to dream or to hope.   They knew what to dream of, what to hope for.  Cycles were just that.  Comings and goings were the rhythm of life.  Finding peace and reassurance in the calendar freed the heart for other yearnings.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Repost from 2010 - Subheading: stardust

Saturday, December 4, 2010

23 zeros and counting

The new profile picture is another rubber stamp design, this a child/not-child dressed as a star for the (as they now call them) holiday program.

The bringing and holding of light speaks to me, not only because we Northern Hemishpherians are moving swiftly toward the shortest day of the year. With light we find our way in the dark, actual, physical dark and that of a more mythic, metaphoric composition.

Illumination, by any of its definitions, involves giving life and light to that which it touches. Dispeller of shadows, revealer of what has been hidden from view, teller of secrets, unmasker, foe of ignorance, befriender of the lost. To be its bearer is to carry wisdom and healing and hope. To be its source is to be a star.

Within the past week, scientists announced that the number of identifiable stars in the known universe is much greater than previously thought. While the numbers are really guesses, it is estimated that there are nearly 100 sextillion stars, a one followed by 23 zeros. Makes a mere gazillion seem paltry.

By virtue of our designation as humans, we possess the extreme potential of being sources of light, not by the same, scientific definition as burning suns, but also not that different. We are often estranged from our own miraculous properties, in the dark, so to speak, about who we are, what we bring, how we are catalysts for change and enlightenment within ourselves and others. We of the Woodstock generation didn't have it wrong. We ARE stardust. It was maintaining that state over decades of spiritual and political candle-snuffers that proved difficult.

We navigate by the stars, their reliable, fixed positions in the heavens leading us home. Wearing your own star suit, holding still while your beams lend guidance, you may wish to send out a press release, updating the astronomers' statistics. Please change that number to 100 sextillion and one.


Laoch of Chicago said...
Nicely expressed. 23 zeros would be a fine name for a startup company.
Kass said...
Wonderful essay on light.
Artist and Geek said...
23 zeroes and counting to infinity...

Our bodies are made of star stuff and our souls are made of stories (Carl Sagan, I think).

Light, stars and sleep. The universe is wonderfully creative isn't it?
Claire Beynon said...
This is a beautiful piece, Marylinn - luminous and illuminating, in the way of so much of what you offer here.

Your star design and the poetry it leads on to are penetrating, too. I find myself thinking of The Little Prince, wanting to read it again.

Thank you for the Carl Sagan snippet, A&G. "The cosmos is also within us; we're made of star stuff..." Here's a link to a video that never fails to stir me -

Warm greetings all.
Claire xo
RachelVB said...
One cannot exist without the other. Incredible that such opposite things rely on each other. We would have no concept of light without the dark. Contrast, too, is vital in photography and in art - the mixing and distinction between light and dark.
Robert the Skeptic said...
Your post gives me fond memories of the late Carl Sagan. I miss him.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Laoch - Thank you. And I agree, any particular sort of company you have in mind?
Marylinn Kelly said...
Kass - Thank you. The message seemed to be coming at me from many directions.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Artist and Geek - It is, truly, a remarkable universe, or piece of the multiverse. Many of us thank you for the Carl Sagan reference, with which I was somehow not acquainted. Being made of star stuff and stories, one would wish that such ordinary states as discouragement, uncertainty, confusion, etc., etc., did not have to be part of the picture. That pesky human form and all the baggage it brings.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Claire - Thank you. Illumination was the first word that took hold of me. Thank you, as well, for the link to Sagan, Feynman, et al..."it's all really there, really, really there..."

I haven't read THE LITTLE PRINCE in ages, but hold fast to, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly...what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Your greetings warmly received. xo
Marylinn Kelly said...
Rachel - Part of each day's assignment seems to be balancing the tension between disparate, ambiguous, contrasting states; emotional and spiritual contortionists who occupy opposing spaces at the same time. And I agree, each gives definition to the other...what would light mean without darkness?
Marylinn Kelly said...
Robert - Following Claire's link helped me realize a great gap in my education, the need to catch up on all missed segments of COSMOS.

In doing some reading about him and his too-short span of years, I can see why you, surely with many others, miss him. One of his quotes is, "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."
Artist and Geek said...
Claire, thanks for the link. Wistful compilation, just wish they hadn't used autotunes. Sagan, Clarke, thinkers and science communicators that are missed.

Marylinn and others; if interested NovaScienceNow has a great series narrated by the enthusiastic Neil de Grasse Tyson (astrophysicist and mentored by Sagan). We are all connected...

Marylinn, yes, life is as mysterious as the universe.

23 stars and counting stars maybe for this group?
Artist and Geek said...
Add: Oops. Extra stars in there, why not?
Donna B said...
I love your new star person drawing. Your words always light up my world, giving me visual pictures of delight and wonder. Great post. I agree, our friends and family are the stars in our universe...shine on dear friend, shine on...
Robert the Skeptic said...
Just a follow-up footnote; I ordered the DVD version of "Cosmos" for Christmas last year and watched the episodes as I exercised. In later years Sagan filmed some "updates" which were inserted into the original series.

This is such a remarkable production; it should be required watching for everyone in school. I love it.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Artist and Geek - Thinkers will always be missed. No matter how much wisdom they have left us, each new moment makes me long for as many sane, intelligent voices as can be found.

Thank you for the NovaScienceNow information and for continuing to count our stars. We are all so very connected.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Donna - Thank you so much. I have an affinity for beings in suits/costumes, forever stuck in the long-ago delight of the school pageant. What a gift, that we are able to offer our light to one another.
Marylinn Kelly said...
Robert - With your wonderful profile picture of the scientifically (?) minded lad with the metal object and the electrical outlet...

Your further recommendation is all the urging I need to make up for lost COSMOS time. Thank you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Normality is the paradise of escapologists"

From the always enlightening Brain Pickings, I knew that Henry Miller and E. Graham Howe didn't need me trying to paraphrase their words.  As if.

“On how one orients himself to the moment depends the failure or fruitfulness of it.”
Henry Miller (1891-1980) — voracious reader, masterful letter-writer, champion of combinatorial creativity, one disciplined writer — spent a good portion of his career freelancing for various literary periodicals. In April of 1939, Modern Mystic magazine commissioned him to write a piece about the work of psychoanalyst E. Graham Howe. Two years later, the essay was republished in the eponymous volume The Wisdom of the Heart (public library) — a collection of Miller’s short stories, profiles, and literary essays.
In the piece, like in all memorable profile writing, Miller uses the synthesis and critique of his subject’s ethos as a springboard for his own and, ultimately, for broader commentary on the culture of the time and the universality of the human condition.

Life, as we all know, is conflict, and man, being part of life, is himself an expression of conflict. If he recognizes the fact and accepts it, he is apt, despite the conflict, to know peace and to enjoy it. But to arrive at this end, which is only a beginning (for we haven’t begun to live yet!), a man has got to learn the doctrine of acceptance, that is, of unconditional surrender, which is love.
Later, Miller turns to the illusory nature of what stands between us and this complete surrender:
‘Normality,’ says Howe, ‘is the paradise of escapologists, for it is a fixation concept, pure and simple.’ ‘It is better, if we can,’ he asserts, ‘to stand alone and to feel quite normal about our abnormality, doing nothing whatever about it, except what needs to be done in order to be oneself.’
It is just this ability to stand alone, and not feel guilty or harassed about it, of which the average person is incapable. The desire for a lasting external security is uppermost, revealing itself in the endless pursuit of health, happiness, possessions an so on, defense of what has been acquired being the obsessive idea, and yet no real defense being possible, because one cannot defend what is undefendable. All that can be defended are imaginary, illusory, protective devices.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The patient compartment

A compartment of the desirable sort, luxury sleeper car accommodation.
What compartmentalization really looks like.
On Monday I posted about invisible illness.  What I'd thought and what I'd written stayed with me.  There was more I could have said and chose to leave it as it was.  My mind was in a not-too-small compartment of self as object and observer.  It only took a call from my health care plan to let me know the nurse practitioner would be out the next day to check on me and that compartment became pinched and narrow. I went into patient mode.  The good part is that by Tuesday I knew I was creating the compartment.

Living as a whole and integrated human seems like asking an awful lot of an ordinary person, especially one given to twitchings, one whose ancient spontaneity, if I ever had any, had lost all elasticity, one for whom panic mode hovers like an urban helicopter on a Saturday night, only more stealthily.  The me who made the domestic and personal preparations for the nurse's visit did not, at least for a span of some 12 to 16 hours,  recall having been or even meeting the me who wrote or drew or watched samurai movies, who once walked 3 miles each morning before work, who read bedtime stories using a different voice for each character, who was able to leave her apartment building at will.

I was not unwell, not in pain except when walking and exercising and even then it was far from unbearable but all the same I shrank the essence of myself down to a one-dimensional, one-word shadow creature.  This is who I chose to represent me for the coming encounter.  The Patient.  Or maybe not.  Having whittled down all non-medical portions of my personality or resume, being left with the quantifiable essentials such as blood pressure and the results of cholesterol testing, I had trouble accepting how fractionalized I let myself become at the thought of the White Coat.   So as we addressed the business at hand, I spoke about Invisible Illness Awareness Week, about writing a post to connect with it, about thoughts from that post, about my own and observed others' invisible illness and how there seemed to be a connection to childhood abuse and trauma.  I spoke from beyond the acceptable boundaries of the patient.  Since I often feel, when I am fully myself, that I am talking in tongues (and this seems to be the week to own that) I didn't feel I was risking too much if I seemed odd and inappropriate.  From words found either Monday or that morning, "Don't be delicate.  Be vast and brilliant," I figured vast and peculiar would be an improvement on delicately well behaved.  I wave my arms and hands when I talk as my whole self, I'm sure my eyes take on an off-putting gleam, I become zealous.  I find zeal hard to muster when only part of me is present.

The meeting went well.  Either she is a brave and unflapable young woman or I did not frighten her unduly.  Within me there are so many more walls to scale or pull down, compartments to identify, doors to open.  To be continued.