Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Postcard Project

Recently, I’ve been revising some work I made twenty years ago.
In 1988, I participated in a mail art project. The project involved making 35 original postcards and mailing them (in an envelope) to someone who was collecting all the cards, and sending back 35 cards from different artists. It sounded fun, and I threw myself headfirst into the project of making the postcards. At the time, I was mostly making collages, and I labored over these 35 cards for about three weeks, clipping images and text from 1950’s homemaker’s magazines, old textbooks, and religious books bought at garage sales, and painstakingly assembling collages out if them. I put a lot of time and effort into these postcards, and I sent them off just before the deadline, then anxiously awaited my package of postcards from other artists.

When the package arrived, I was pretty disappointed. I received 35 cards, but most of them were pairs of cards from an artist, instead of cards from 35 different artists. Much worse than that, however, was that many of the people involved obviously put no effort whatsoever into their cards. One person scribbled on a piece of poster board with several differently colored markers, then cut the board into 4 X 6 inch squares. Another glued whole pages of newspaper onto a sheet of poster board, and cut that into squares. I even received two of my own cards back (which I can’t seem to find right now). Receiving two scribbled pieces of board seemed pretty bad after pouring so much effort into the project. While there were a few decent photo cards in the package, many of the 35 cards ended up in the trash.

When I made my collaged postcards, I ran up against the deadline for mailing them and had to send them off before documenting them (this was years before I owned a scanner or a copy stand). Figuring it was better than nothing, I had my sister take them to work and make B&W photocopies of all 35 postcards. These copies have sat in a folder in my file cabinet for 20 years, until now.

With the home remodeling project (which just passed week five of the supposedly three week project-and it’s still not finished) I’ve been without my basement workspace for making alternative process prints. Tired of sitting around waiting to return to the studio, I pulled the 20 year old grainy B&W photocopies out of the filing cabinet, scanned them all, and have been digitally revising and coloring some of them.

Here’s the original photocopy of the revised card seen at the top of this post, for comparison.

Of the 35 cards, probably a third of them really aren’t very good and are best left buried in the file cabinet. I remember running out of steam about 3/4 of the way through making them, but forcing myself to push out a few more. Another third are ok, but nothing much can be done with them. That leaves about a dozen or so postcards that hold up decently well after 20 years, and that might benefit from being reworked and updated. I decided not to try and recreate the cards as they originally looked. After 20 years, I can’t remember how they looked in their original state, and in some cases, it’s hard to recreate anything from a grainy photocopy. Besides, it’s more fun making something new out of them.

Here’s another one, the original first, followed by the revision.

As of this writing, I have four of the cards completed, and two or three more in progress (including one that I’ve done two versions of, and don’t like either one). I enlarged a couple of them and printed them, and they look great. So good, in fact, that I’m thinking of listing them as prints on my Etsy page.

I’ll post more of these postcard revisions in a couple of days.

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