About this mail art blog

This mail art blog re-circulates Ray Johnson's Follow Instructions Below. Originally published in the November 1971 issue of Arts Magazine, it was a "mailing event" cleverly devised by the artist in which recipients are asked to alter or add to a photocopy of Rimbaud.

January 26, 2010

From: Becky S.

Brought to you by the mischievous mind of Becky S. and the magic of Crayola Crayons!

Using what appears to be crayon and sharpie, this artist created a wonderful scene set against blue sky by potting some lovely ferns in Rimbaud's eyes as well as outlining his portrait and adding a pair of animated hands.

I am interested here in the tension between the playfulness of the piece (interpreted from the use of crayon and cartoonish drawing style) and the ambiguous pose of Rimbaud (is he gripping his own face or mugging for the camera?).

Most importantly, I love Becky S.'s equation for this drawing:

SIMPLE MEDIA (black pen, crayon) +

EXCELLENT EXECUTION (mad drawing skills!) =


January 20, 2010

From: God (aka Emily G.)

I knew from the get-go that this project would be something special. But I really had no clue that it would the attract likes of God. Yes, that's right, God has participated in this mailing event. I even have proof. When I received this in the mail, the sender's name was written in bold red marker as "God."

It opened to quite a work with a lovely note attached to the back of it. It read, "Dear Anna, Though Rimbaud is fantastic, I thought you might like a completely new icon. Fondly, Ms. Emily G." So, it turns out that God also goes by the name of Emily G.

What I love most about this one is that she has indeed been successful in her claims -- that is, to create and contribute a "completely new icon." She began by snipping Rimbaud into strips of paper and then stitched them together with black thread to make a new canvas. After vigorously marking the image with pencil and red and orange marker, she put on the finishing touch: a color photograph of herself, cigarette in hand with a toy cowboy protruding from her pants and a wicked grin.

In the end, God/Emily G. has completely obliterated the image of Rimbaud and put forth her own icon. The irreverence of this piece would make Ray Johnson proud. I certainly am!

(Oh, and to see more fantastic artwork by Emily G., look here!)

January 13, 2010

From: The Mystery Mailer

When I received this Rimbaud in the mail, it came unsigned on both the work of art and the envelope. (Cue dramatic music, please!) Therefore, it's shrouded in mystery and I've dubbed the author, "The Mystery Mailer."

This is a great take in my opinion. It's simple and thought-provoking. After I stopped thinking about who could possibly be the artist (!) and started looking at the image, this famous art quote came to mind:

"A line is a dot that went for a walk." -- Paul Klee

The artist decided that Rimbaud's two pupils would be fitting dots and then let the pen take a walk from there. One dot went for only a quick loop around Rimbaud's eye while the other went on quite the journey, tracing the contours of his face.

Well played, Mystery Mailer, well played.

January 12, 2010

From: Anonymous

Here's the story behind this contribution: When I opened the envelope and was greeted by "Barbarella Face," I immediately realized that either this artist did not understand the project or s/he totally out Ray Johnson-ed Ray Johnson by deciding to throw Rimbaud completely out of the equation and appropriate Johnson's characteristic "bunny" cartoon (as seen on this blog in Follow Below Instructions).

It turns out it was indeed an accident -- but sometimes accidents are the best art. Even though I gave the artist another chance to actually follow the instructions and use the photocopy of Rimbaud, I decided to post this submission because 1. it cracks me up and 2. this artist says I look like Barbarella, so it is a portrait of myself as a Johnson "bunny" cartoon and 3. who can resist that face?!

January 6, 2010

From: Angel G.

This is the first Rimbaud that I received in the mail from my artist friend, Angel G. He cleverly rotated the poet's portrait horizontally and then created an astonishingly detailed Surrealist landscape. I love the idea of turning the psychic space of the head into a melancholic, moonlit landscape through which hooded figures wander aimlessly . Beautiful work! Visit his blog to view more of his wonderful artwork here.