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.

February 22, 2010

From: Chris G.

The wonderful artist, Chris G., has supplied the next mail art entry. Playful yet prophetic, it packs quite a visual punch.

I love this one because it's layered like a lovely joke onion -- as you peel away a layer, you discover a pun. He affixed various measuring devices onto Rimbaud which cover his eyes, nose, and mouth. Upon closer inspection, the three circular forms turn out to be the faces of a chronograph watch: the 12-hour, the minute or second hand, and 30-day. Get it?! The faces of the clock create Rimbaud's face. The clocks are giving him face! I also giggled when I realized that the clocks were "red-handed."

In the bottom right corner of the work, a message reads:

"Weave got all the thyme in the world..."

Cryptic, yes; yet, it's fun to try to decode. This mail art begs us to question how we measure the world. By rulers? By clocks? Yes, perhaps here, "time/thyme" is the clue. Do you measure your life by time? Or, measure it by thyme, the spice? The spice of life?! Yes. That's at least how I want my life to measured: by its spiciness.

One of Ray Johnson's favorite pastimes was aestheticizing and philosophizing the absurd. And in this way, Chris G. has created a perfect homage to the late great. Thank you, Chris! Amazing job!

February 11, 2010

From: Charlotte L.

Rimbaud à la drag! Loves it; but of course, it's more than that.

For the sixth contribution to The "New" New York Correspondence School, Charlotte L. cleverly transformed the androgynous features of Rimbaud into one of the most iconic faces of the last century: Marilyn Monroe. It's amusing to see the emaciated poet revamped as a sex symbol. I am also delighted to see that for this project, Charlotte L. pulled from her treasure trove of burlesque costumes and attached a flashy pair of red eyelashes. They are a great touch because they definitely give the piece an extra something as well as adding a wonderfully three dimensional element to the page.

To further Rimbaud's transformation, Charlotte L. recreated Marilyn Monroe's trademark look by highlighting his hair yellow and adding her signature beauty mark. Her mail art inevitably references Andy Warhol's screen prints of the blond bombshell. While his mass-produced images are some of the most celebrated images of Monroe, I prefer Charlotte L.'s Rimbaud-Monroe concoction. Because Warhol utilized mass production techniques, I believe this in turn created a gaping distance between the creator and the created. Inversely, Charlotte L. got up close and personal with Rimbaud. For the final touch, she applied red lipstick over Rimbaud's lips by kissing him. And how could you not love mail art that has been sealed with a kiss?!