adrienne mason art

glue + paper + scissors = collage


Found Abstracts and a Giveaway

I’ve just returned from a weekend workshop on Whidbey Island at the Pacific Northwest School of Art. I had a great time learning from Jane Davies and hanging out with my friend and artist, Marion Syme. I don’t have any finished pieces to show from the workshop as it was primarily about technique and exploration, but suffice to say you should check out the school’s offerings as well as Jane’s work and workshops (many of which are on-line).

Before the workshop we spent a day exploring Port Townsend, which was a fabulous way to spend the day — funky old townsite, antique shops, art galleries, good food, a parade (which we missed, but still!; it was Rhodo Fest or some such). I picked up this wonderful etching by artist Kenji Ushiku. I loved it as soon as I saw it, but resisted going back to buy it for a few hours since it was in the first shop we entered. I’m glad I made the purchase; it’s sitting on my mantle now. (Sorry about the glare.)

Print by Kenji Ushiku

Print by Kenji Ushiku

We also spent a great hour or so exploring Fort Worden and we came upon Battery Kinzie. Old buildings and military history aside, we were struck by all of the abstract paintings we found on the walls of the battery. Ostensibly the marks were to cover up graffiti, but I’m not so sure. The colours and marks seem so well chosen. It feels like artists were let loose with the paints and rollers. I can’t find anything on-line, but if you have any info., please leave a comment. Here are my found abstracts:

Fabulous or what? I think the colour combos might find their way into some work. I was a bit jazzed when I got home so I got busy with the paints, stamps, and monoprints I made to create a few abstract postcards last night. Here’s the giveaway part. If you would like an “Adrienne Mason original” (ha, ha!)—or would like to surprise someone with one—please leave a comment with info on how I can contact you and I’ll send one along (randomly chosen). And please feel free to spread the word.



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The Peeps Project

In my post on mail art, I mentioned that many mail artists often start projects. They could be small, perhaps an “add and pass” piece of art that passes between a few people, or they could be very large like the one that Jack from Cascadia Artpost undertook in 2015. His “Peeps Project” has 27 participants from 7 countries. We were all correspondents of Jack’s and he asked us if we’d like to be involved. If we said Yes! we received something that looked like this in the mail.

Box full of "peeps" from Cascadia Artpost.

Box full of “peeps” from Cascadia Artpost.

And inside were a lot of little characters, the “peeps.” Our challenge was to create scenarios for these miniature people and create pieces of art. (This is part of what they wrote to us: “Your mission in this project, should you choose to accept it, is to change the world and the very foundation of reality, at 1:87 scale or full scale, and record with photos individual peeps or groups of peeps in settings and scenarios of your choosing.”)

Some people really got into it, even creative a narrative story for their characters) but I stewed and stewed over mine and actually found it quite difficult (I also don’t have a great camera, which was an excuse I held onto for a long time), but I did finally get a handful together. I’ve posted a few examples below, but what’s even more astounding about this time-intensive project is that Jack and his friend Colin (from “Very Dodgy Mail”) made the book, a hand-bound hard-cover copy of a 142-page book (+ an insert), and send one to each of us. Dedication or what? Here’s what arrived a few weeks ago:

Peeps Project

Thanks you two for pulling together this crazy project! It’s fun to see what everyone created. I’ve posted a few of the images from the book below.


What is Mail Art?

Pamela just did a great post on how to find people to exchange mail art or letters with, but I noticed that a few people said they weren’t creative enough. No, no, no! As I wrote here, the thing about mail art is that pretty much anything goes. No art school required. I’ve been meaning to upload images of some of the mail I’ve received recently because it shows the breadth of things you can send and receive. Here goes. (See the detailed descriptions below the image gallery. And you can click on any image to take a closer look.)

  1. This is one side of a postcard from Torma in Budapest. We correspond regularly and he sends great collage postcards that often include some custom rubber stamps.
  2. Mail artists often use pseudonyms, thus this note from FinnBadger. See how he’s been creative with the positioning of the postage stamps on the envelope?
  3. Sometimes mail artists go all out with the envelope, making them from original art or magazine images or whatever. As I said, anything goes! Kevin also included a note in this “Flairmail” and the curious “Top Five Fives.”
  4. Sometimes mail artists put out calls for art. (See the long list of calls here?) Last year sometime, Frips from Belgium put out a call asking for seeds, which he was going to distribute to people who needed them. And this year Frips thanked us with this little envelope of marigold seeds made from a tiny envelope stitched together by sewing machine.
  5. Artists often use rubber stamps very creatively and can include little gifts. This “Burn on Completion” booklet from Sally is actually a tiny 2016 calendar with matches included so I can burn it when the year is out. Love this.
  6. This is a fun one. Last year, longtime mail artist Anna Banana had a retrospective in a few venues in Victoria. It’s worthy of a separate post, which I’ll try to get together one day, but those who attended the show likely participated in her “Specific Research Survey of Banana Culture” (sometimes mail artists are performance artists, too!) and this envelope included an issue of her newsletter, the Banana Rag. The envelope was (I think) made from a stencil (note the hard-boiled egg shape?) and spattered with paint to create the pattern.
  7. Sometimes mail artists create their own artistamps (see the “Bananapost” stamp?) and rubber stamps (see the custom cancellation — 45 Years of Fooling Around with a Banana!)
  8. And, well, some mail artists just have a way with calligraphy. This beauty is from Richard in France—lovely calligraphy with collage.  Sometimes mail art includes a small note, and sometimes it doesn’t (and you don’t even need to open the envelopes). No rules.
  9. Mail from Dori is always a treat—fabulous envelopes, little handmade books and cards, bits of ephemera to share, a short note. Ever creative. Many of the books I have lying around here have a Dori bookmark inside.
  10. And Taradactyl makes stellar—and colourful—envelopes that often includes fabulous things with folds and pockets and paper mysteries stuffed here and there.
  11. See IUOMA stamped on this envelope from Katerina in Greece? That’s the International Union of Mail Artists and you should get over there and explore. Anyone can join. The website takes a bit of getting used to, but you might want to pour yourself a coffee as you’re about to go down a rabbit hole. Katerina’s collage card also includes hand-cut rubber stamps (Greek Time) and an artistamp (Blue Time Post).
  12. There are some mail artists that seem to have a lot of time on their hands and are very prolific and Cascadia Artpost is one of those people. Every envelope seems to bring a new artistamp (see the Cascadia Artpost stamps on this envelope?) and custom rubberstamps, too. Recently he’s taken on a big (BIG!) project: the Peeps Photo Project, which I participated in. And he’s making a book of the work, so I’ll wait to do an entire post later on.
  13. Sometimes you receive custom art, but sometimes they are printed cards of work from that person. I love this custom postcard from Mail Art Martha, of “Martha the I in coronation robes. Painter unknown.” See the letters in her hand? And see the great custom (I think hand cut?) stamps on the envelope?
  14. Finally, this is another response to a mail art call—Mail Me a Map. Lorraine asked people to send her maps. Then she made a dress from those maps. Then she put the dress on and took a bunch of pictures, which she turned into artistamps.

I hope this gives you a sense of the breadth of what mail artists can get up to. Relax, have fun with it, and don’t think too hard!

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Brooklyn: Collaged (+ Kurt)

I’m a fan of German artist Kurt Schwitters’s work, a lot of which is composed of found litter, such as this piece Merz 460. Two underdrawers.

Kurt Schwitters_Merz

Merz 460. Two underdrawers by Kurt Schwitters

Here are a few more from the Guggenheim. And I got to see three in person yesterday, at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s show, MashUp.  (I neglected to get down the name of these pieces though and my photos aren’t great.)

But what I really wanted to post about today—the connection being that both artists use found material in their work—was the fabulous collage map of Brooklyn by Jennifer Maravillas, which I was introduced to via this article on Atlas Obscura. Here is the image that caught my eye, called 71 Miles (the size of Brooklyn):

Image and map courtesy Jennifer Maravillas.

Image and map courtesy Jennifer Maravillas.

Fabulous, no? It took her three years to complete. And now she’s working on 232 square miles, which will encompass the five boroughs of New York City. (You can see the blog on the progress of that project here.) She thinks it will take her ten years. You can read more about the process of creating 71 Miles here. Thanks for allowing me to post the images, Jennifer.

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D.C. Art

I’ve just arrived home from my first visit to Washington, D. C. I was very busy with work, but, via work and a bit of judicious skipping out, I managed to get to several of the Smithsonian Institution’s fabulous galleries and museums. Here is one of the highlights. (Actually, the highlight, but I’ll write another post about a few others things I enjoyed.)

My pictures will not do it justice, but suffice to say, even if you are not all that “into” art, I’d get over to the Renwick Gallery before May 8, 2016 if you find yourself in D.C. You’ve got to see, or rather experience, the WONDER exhibit. Fabulous. And they are large installations — one to a room — so it isn’t that overwhelming. Well, it is almost overwhelming, but in a very good way. Here are a few of my favourites:

"Wallpaper" by Jennifer Angus.

“Wallpaper” by Jennifer Angus.

This exhibit, In the Midnight Garden, is by Jennifer Angus. This was my favourite gallery, but Angus is also Canadian so she get’s top billing here. And here’s what the Renwick has to say about her installation: “Angus’ genius is the embrace of what is wholly natural, if unexpected. Yes, the insects are real, and no, she has not altered them in any way except to position their wings and legs. The species in this gallery are not endangered, but in fact are quite abundant, primarily in Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea, a corner of the world where Nature seems to play with greater freedom. The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexico, where it has long been prized as the best source of the color red. By altering the context in which we encounter such species, Angus startles us into recognition of what has always been a part of our world.” 

Next up, 1.8 by Janet Echelman. (How have I never heard of this artist before? Check out her website.) I could have hung out at this installation for a very long time. There are pillows, couches, and a comfy carpet below, so you are welcome to lie down and watch.

Participatory art. The best kind.

Participatory art. The best kind.

From the Renwick: “Echelman’s woven sculpture corresponds to a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, one of the most devastating natural disasters in recorded history. The event was so powerful it shifted the earth on its axis and shortened the day, March 11, 2011, by 1.8 millionths of a second, lending this work its title. Waves taller than the 100-foot length of this gallery ravaged the east coast of Japan, reminding us that what is wondrous can equally be dangerous.”

And then there was this, Middle Fork, by John Grade:

Middle Fork, by John Grade.

Middle Fork, by John Grade.

From the Renwick: “To commemorate the Renwick’s reopening, Grade selected a hemlock tree in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle that is approximately 150 years old–the same age as this building. His team created a full plaster cast of the tree (without harming it), then used the cast as a mold to build a new tree out of a half-million segments of reclaimed cedar. Hundreds of volunteers assisted Grade, hand carving each piece to match the contours of the original tree. After the exhibition closes, Middle Fork (Cascades) will be carried back to the hemlock’s location and left on the forest floor, where it will gradually return to the earth.”

Note: hundreds of volunteers helped Grade and, when the exhibit is done, it’s returning home to decay back to the earth. I kind of love that.

Just one more and then I’ll leave the rest for you to discover, either in person or online.

Especially for my friends who find visiting office supply stores a good time:

The installation is Untitled by Tara Donovan. From the Renwick: “Employing mundane materials such as toothpicks, straws, Styrofoam cups, scotch tape, and index cards, Donovan gathers up the things we think we know, transforming the familiar into the unrecognizable through overwhelming accumulation. The resulting enigmatic landscapes force us to wonder just what it is we are looking at and how to respond. The mystery, and the potential for any material in her hands to capture it, prompts us to pay better attention to our surroundings, permitting the everyday to catch us up again.”