“Mail Art” Project at BSU

This is fun. Make a piece of art and send it through USPS and it becomes part of an art show next year at Boise State University. Found object. A rock. Fancy envelopes. The idea is that the item is shipped without much packaging. Slap an address on it and pay the postage.

[photo from Fonda Portales]

From Boise State:

What is mail art? A profoundly democratic art form whose only requirement is that the art piece – whether it’s a collage, a brick wrapped in wrapping paper, a watercolored envelope with copious glitter, or a coconut slathered with stamps – is sent through the mail.

Boise State is hosting Postal Outliers, a mail art show early in 2021. The deadline to submit a piece is Nov. 1. Fonda Portales, an organizer of the exhibition and curator of the university’s art collection, shared the rules for the show: “no jury, no fees, no returns.”

In other words, anyone who submits a piece will be included. There’s no fee to submit a piece, and all the pieces in Postal Outliers will become part of the collection of the Boise State Special Collections Archive.

“My hope is that people feel this is open to them,” said Portales. “Mail art requires only a willingness for a bit of postal adventure.”

The roots of mail art lie in the post-World War I absurdist Dada movement and the experimental Fluxus movement of the 1960s and 1970s, said Portales. The Smithsonian recently hosted an exhibition, Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art from the Archives of American Art, with mail art selected from its archives.

Submissions are already making their way to the Boise State mail box, said Portales. “One is the top of a computer laptop that someone in Vermont turned into a canvas. Another is a painted rock in an up-cycled fruit container.”

The exhibition also will include mail art pieces from the collection of Tom Trusky, the late Boise State professor, film historian and art collector.

Boise artist Debra Mulnick is co-organizing the exhibition with Portales. Mulnick has worked in the medium for a decade. Her home studio is festooned with mail art she’s received from Taiwan, from all over the European Union, from South Africa, Brazil and Russia.

Being a mail artist, she said, requires a leap of faith and some optimism. Mail art can get lost, wrecked, or returned-to-sender.

“It might not work,” Mulnick said. But often it does.

Want to submit a piece?

Postal Outliers Exhibition

c/o Fonda Portales

university art curator

Boise State University

1910 University Dr. MS 1335

Boise, Idaho 83725-1335


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