In early June 2022 I put together a twenty minute video to present via Zoom to that month’s ZMAG [Zoom Mail Artists Group] meeting of mail artist colleagues. After the zoom meeting I made it public at my Vimeo and at my YouTube sites. YouTube might be a better format for smart phone viewing. (?)

https://vimeo.com/718054491 or https://youtu.be/2Adr6kp3Leg

As such, it doesn’t provide much context for those not familiar with what mailart is, or the history behind mailart. In addition, more back ground information and identifying information for many of the earlier mages presented in the video can be researched at the following websites for anyone curious enough to followup:

To find the FaceBook group managed by Joey Patrickt & Ruud Janssenn, search for “The Mail-Art Cow”.

The U-Do-IT Make A Cow documentation (a mailart call by Joey Patrickt) is at http://make-a-cow-1984.blogspot.com After I’d made The Mail Art Cow video, he told me “U-D0-IT” is a phrase he appropriated from his grandmother.

And finally, https://youtu.be/fMDfoXm8Uis is the video created by Jim Andrews with his narration of text from my poem “Buffoon Quartet”, which I refer to in one of the slides because “Ask A Cow” is one of the lines in the poem… Jim used filler material for the text taken from a group of visual poetry jpegs I sent him, using his Alpha Null 3.0 software which he designed as a graphic synthesizer/ He explains more about it in this video from a art exhibit he had in 2019 at Massey Books when he was up to version 3.1 of Aleph Null: https://youtu.be/aK-8K4w52Qs

Those NEW to mailart will find MANY websites/blogs online which document mailart calls/exhibits, because today it is expensive to produce full color catalogues that include everything submitted to these exhibits (also, mailing catalogues overseas has become more expensive). There’s always the option to apply for a grant or find institutional sponsorship in order to document m.a. exhibits in print as it was traditionally done. However, today it is more practical to document scanned mailart online, and those websites can be shared with more people than just the participants. So just do an online search for MAILART or “MAIL ART” to learn about the results of world-wide mailartist network projects as far as mailart exhibition calls are concerned.

ABOUT ARCHIVING MAILART: Some of the younger generation of mailartists scan their incoming mailart & then post it online (though I’m not one of those peeps), and who knows what happens to the physical pieces pieces of mailart down the line. Other mailartists find a “home” for their physical archives at institutions like libraries or museums (my archive has a home at The Ohio State University Library’s Dept. of Rare Books & Special ollections). Some mailartists recycle the mailart they receive by resending it to others in the network. One of the ‘tenents’ of mailart exhibitions is that every mailart item received should be exhibited, so it follows that for a m.a. archive, everything should be saved, rather then only saving works of well-known mailartists, or only saving ‘curated by receiver’ mailart. At least, that’s the way I approach my archive. Some of the mailart envelopes in my archive might be emptied, however, especially if all that was sent were “Add & Pass” (A&P) pages or booklets, which I add to then pass on to a fellow networker. Plus I’ve also pulled out artist stamp sheets, which are often pin-perforated & only printed in limited signed editions, and archive them in plastic sheet protectors in alphabetized notebooks. Some artists might make copies of A&Ps and stamp sheets to archive with the original mailart envelope, but I don’t go that far.

Below is an international postage stamp from The Netherlands that features a cow silhouette – I added “Ask A Cow” & made a small edition of ATCs with this image (Artists’ Trading Cards are 2.5″ x 3.5″ and often exchanged in the mail in addition to the original intent which was for in-person exchanges).

Ask A Cow ATC

Another great mailartist (who happens to be male) passed away about 6 months ago – Here is information about an exhibit of the art works of Edward F. Higgins III.

Mail Artists Index

May 12th – June 5th, 2022  |  Opening Reception: May 12th, 6 PM – 8 PM

E.F. Higgins III (1949-2021) grew up in a small town outside of Chicago, IL. He majored in Fine Arts at Western Michigan University but quit school two weeks before graduating. Higgins later attended the University of Colorado to receive his BFA and then went on to receive an MFA in 1976 from the same school, majoring in Painting and Printmaking. In the same year, Higgins left for New York City where he lived and worked s as a professional artist. He was a member of The Rivington School.

While at university, his interests in painting and printmaking led him to create a number of works including play money, stock certificates, stamps, mining claims, postcards, posters, letterheads, labels, maps, and blueprints. These are all considered “non-art” or commercially produced 2-D visuals. After moving to NYC, he began…

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I’ve read the following books of collected short stories or essays with an absurdist, surrealist, or existentialist bent to them; all are first editions, or first editions of English translations of early 20th century works; all were published in 2017:

THE COMPLETE STORIES OF LEONORA CARRINGTON includes a number of short stories that were translated from French or Spanish, though she was born in England to a wealthy family. She was an accomplished surrealist writer and painter, had lived in France with Max Ernst, and both were an important part of the surrealist movement. Ernst was imprisoned when France was invaded, and Carrington ended up in Spain and had a mental breakdown. She made it to the United States with the help of a diplomat she met in Spain, then moved to Mexico, where her surrealist sensibilities were a good fit and her art was celebrated. Carrington died in 2011. Many of her stories are modeled as adult fairy tales. The stories are magical gems, composed of fantastical creatures and surrealist (sometimes Freudian) symbolism, and they all have a deeply personal feel to them, like her paintings. We were able to see a number of her paintings in a modern art gallery during a visit to Merida in the Yucatan years ago.

Another writer, Daniil Kharms, has perhaps become better known in the states perhaps because of the current trend in Russian cultural studies, but also because of the work of translator Alex Cigale. His introduction and translations were published by Northwestern University Press as DANIIL KHARMS RUSSIAN ABSURD: SELECTED WRITINGS. With stories and poems and a few excerpts from Kharm’s diary, these works from varying periods of Kharms’ life were never published in Russia during his lifetime, mostly due to the repressive culture of the 20’s and 30’s. He and others in his circle were able to make a living by writing children’s literature, and I expect he was very good at that, based on the vivid imaginary setups in these selected writings. We see, for example, old women falling out of windows due to over-inquisitiveness, or a man disappearing into thin air. Alex Cigale feels Kharms ought to be categorized with other great existentialists like Sartre and Camus.

NEST IN THE BONES / Stories by Antonio Di Benedetto, is a translation from the Spanish by Martina Broner of selected works by this well-known (in Latin America) novelist from Argentina (1922 – 1986), and this first Archipelago Books edition came out in 2017. Compared to Carrington and Kharms, these stories appear to be more rooted in realism at first glance, but with characters and creative plot lines that retain a kind of weird after-taste in a memorable way. I can’t quite explain it as “magic realism” though the stories are deeply rooted in Latin American culture, instead he is a great prose stylist whose characters are astoundingly unique. The story Aballay, originally published in 1978 as part of a collection called The Absurd Ones, features a man burdened with a bad conscience, having killed a man in front of the victim’s young son. After hearing a sermon and discussing it with the priest afterwards, he decides on a form of penance that involves staying mounted on his horse. This was, in his mind, akin to the Syriac ascetic, St. Simeon, who remained atop a high pillar exposed to the elements and dependent on the kindness of people from a nearby village for food. He’s definitely a memorable character, this gaucho pilgrim!

Vol. One of SLOW READER magazine was published in Canada by Madras Press in early 2017. I came across it at Shakespeare and Company book store (an historic English reader’s bookstore) in April 2017 when we were in Paris France. The magazine features poems, essays, art, and works that are all inspired by the contemporary Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, a popular writer with an existentialist bent. I’ve read a few of his novels that have been translated into English, for example: The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, A Wild Sheep Chase, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The magazine is evidence of a Murakami cult in our western hemisphere, as we all wait in suspense for the next English translation of his novels to come out!

– C. Mehrl Bennett

April 2022 Glimpset

Posted: April 25, 2022 in collage, Comic Book Artist, Essay, family
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OUR SUNDAY MORNING ROUTINE by C. Mehrl Bennett

My husband, John, gets up early to take a weekly pill to slow down calcium loss in his bones. He will be 80 next October. He has to wait an hour after taking this pill to eat food, so he reads the Sunday newspaper before making our usual Sunday breakfast of eggs and toast. He makes a really good omelet and I bake the bread we use for toast.

I get up in time to make my coffee before breakfast. It’s 2 T. full strength and 1 T. decaf. John will not drink decaf. He buys a liquid concentrate of full strength organic French roast from Trader Joe’s and adds water. After breakfast, I do the cleanup while he goes back to The NY Times, then I join him on the couch to read the comics section from The Columbus Dispatch. He leaves the comics folded differently from the way they arrive in The Dispatch.

I spend a lot of time reading the comics, compared to John, and I tend to vary the order in which I read the pages; though I always save my favorite strip for last, which is PICKLES by Brian Crane. It features interactions between an elderly retired couple, and sometimes includes a grandson or a dog. We have no grandchildren or pets, but I can relate to the humorous exchanges between PICKLES characters, much as I used to relate to ZITS by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. Most likely they titled it ZITS due to Jeremy, the teenage son. When we were raising two teenage boys, the generational tensions in our household situation felt very much like what is treated so very humorously in ZITS.

We have a different dynamic now, so the PICKLES comic strip is what helps keep life in perspective. In our nursing home years, it’ll be the comic strip FLO & FRIENDS, “Aging with an Attitude!” by Jenny Campbell.

Snippets from The Columbus Dispatch comics published April 24, 2022, Columbus Ohio USA

Before you wonder “Why” or “How”:

The baby should be able to say “banana” before it participates in this activity. And give the baby a bath. And stock up on bananas.

Is there an extreme reaction of disgust to the cloudiness of the water?

Are we talking about the bath water or the water that floats the boat?

I am a detail oriented person, but my sense of organization tends to get lost in all the details that overwhelm me. Still, I enjoy the challenge of finding something I didn’t know I was looking for as I try to deal with situation. “Serendipity” is the word I am looking for.

When we are told to “Keep your eye on the ball”, I have half a mind to ask, “Which ball?” Oh wait, we were talking about the bathwater, or maybe the water that floats our boat.

OK, another point to make about the bathwater is that it might be compared to negative feelings about the banana project we are preparing for or simply a first negative impression about someone or something.

Were one to act on impulse in regard to that negative feeling, one might regret it later; when after a good night’s sleep or simply given another chance to change one’s mind, the activity would occur in objectivity.

What I mean to say is, “Don’t throw the baby overboard” when you row the baby out with the bananas, but it’s OK to throw out the dirty bathwater.

C. Mehrl Bennett March 22, 2022

Author note: This is an edited version of my original 20 minute *glimpset, “Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater”. I revised it after reading a short story where someone is overheard saying, “Send me a postcard when the baby can say ‘banana’.”

  • See my previous post from October 2021 for more information about what “glimpset” referrs to.

Last Saturday afternoon was our first group meeting, outside on on a member’s back screened in patio, where a half dozen of us gathered for the purpose of writing quietly together for 20 minutes mostly just for the purpose of “writing” a short glimpse into each of our minds. We were supplied with a list of starting points, of which there are many, as many as you can imagine. But the point was just to have a point from which to begin, and officially staying “on point” is not the point. Each of us finds our own point in the resulting text, then we share our glimpset with the group (or choose not to share, no matter).

I chose one from five points provided, “An Important Ritual“, which further offered three sub-categories.

I did not flesh out the subcategories when I wrote during the group meeting, but I approached the topic again this morning with the idea of categorizing according to each sub-category, what I deem “important” rituals. Before reading my list, take note that I am defining “important” in the manner of my mailart correspondant in Texas, Honoria Starbuck, who sent me two round painted rondos: “Enjoy, Seriously.” (See artistamps I made from Honoria’s art below…)

  1. –personal: While it is raining, stand with your body inside the building, with your arm exposed to the rain outside as you hold the door open. Do this for as long as you feel like doing it.
  2. –family: Make a list of questions for a sibling or other person you considered as “family” when growing up. Sex, politics, and religion are all on the table. List the questions from shortest to longest.
  3. –community: Ask your peeps to line up in single file and approach you with cupped hands. As the “priest”, squirt antibacterial gel into each set of proffered hands while pronouncing, “Anti-fluxus Gel”.

C. Mehrl Bennett October 11, 2021

P.S. If you want to try writing a glimpset, set aside 20 minutes & just be creative. It’s good brain practice. A few other prompts were: a) a favorite relative b) A moment when you learned something important OR c) Your main goal for fall or winter

FLUXFEST ONLINE 2021

Posted: April 5, 2021 in Uncategorized

Here is the fluxus event score booklet for FLUXFEST ONLINE 2021 compiled by Mary Campbell of Day de Dada:

http://

Many of these event scores were performed on March 21st (in a three minute video) or LIVE on zoom on March 22nd.

My spouse (John M. Bennett) and I did an event on both of those Fluxfest Online days. John is a poet & performs his poems or poem events with his own fluxus bent on the delivery. Nothing of significance to report this morning except that I plan to eat Part II of my dark chocolate Easter bunny this afternoon. Also, we are both vaccinated and experienced no significant side effects beyond a little fatigue the 2nd day — and that was due to a healthy immune system showing its muscle temporarily. We’ve been getting out more to enjoy the warmer temperatures of sunny daZe in central Ohio. Call your family or friends and let them know you are thinking of them.

On March 11, 2021, an audio interview by Jennie Hinchcliff (aka Red Letter Day) with myself (C. Mehrl Bennett) aired for about 45 minutes via Jennie’s new podcast: SENDERS RECEIVE: MAKING MAIL / SENDING ART. Listen to our conversation in Episode #4 (and check out her other podcasts) by clicking HERE. She gave me a few questions before-hand to help me prepare, and asked for any subject suggestions that I might have as well. As the podcast title suggests, her focus is on mail artists. Of course, I was flattered to be asked for an interview, and Jennie made it easy with her conversational approach, plus she edits out those awkward moments where memory fails. For anyone who doesn’t know Jennie, be advised that she has done her homework [RE: mailart as a topic] not only with her own mailart practice and by hosting the group “SF Correspondence Co-op” in San Francisco, but she was one of two authors of a book which was published in 2009 by Quarto Publishing Group: Good Mail Day : A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler

For examples of mailart one only needs to search the web or social media sites with “Mail Art” or “Mailart” … many of us see the term as one word. Or you might search this wordpress site for examples of my own projects by clicking in the side bar for tags/categories “Mailart” or “Fluxus” or “Artists Books” or “Visual Poetry” or “Artistamp”, etc. to read more about the activities to which we may have referred to in this interview. I provide (below) a list of artists we mentioned just in case anyone might wish to search for further information by using the correct spelling of their names.

Artists we mention during this interview:

Daniel Spoerri,

Al Ackerman (aka The Blaster & many other pseudonyms he used as an author/ See LBP published book HERE),

Marilyn R. Rosenberg, NY

Jim Leftwich, VA

Ginny Lloyd, CA

Julie Jeffries (aka ExFacto Posto), TX

Adam Roussopoulos, MN

Mark Bloch, NY

Cathi Swalbe, IL

Mike Dyar, CA

Hal McGee, FL

Darlene Altschul, CA

Keith Buchholz, MS

Bibiana Padilla Maltos, CA

John M. Bennett (my spouse, poet, founding editor of Luna Bisonte Prods), OH

Ray Johnson, NY (deceased 1/13/1995)

John Held Jr., CA

K.S.Ernst, NJ

Dick Higgins, NY (deceased 1998)

Alison Knowles, NY

Ficus strangulensis (aka Forrest Richey), WV

Jas. W. Felter

Pete Balestrieri (Curator of science fiction and popular culture collections at the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives). Pete gave us a tour of the Fluxus collection in the librarie’s Special Collections, to which HERE is the link to the online digitized Fluxus Collection! The UI’s Archives of American Art now has a mailart collection listed under the primary donator Chuck Welch (aka Cracker Jack Kid), to which I contributed a small assortment of 1980 & earlier mailart I received from S. America.

Other side notes: In the interview I mentioned how artistamps first began to gain popularity with artists on the west coast of the USA, and so Jennie mentioned the 2012 AARPEX event. The Artistamp Artists Reunion & Philatelic EXposition was a gathering of artistamp makers in 2012 in Seattle WA in November of that year. We also discussed a book published in 2012: Ginnie Lloyd published Women in the Artistamp Spotlight via her “TropiChaCha Press” which you can read more about & perhaps purchased by clicking HERE.

And finally, I mentioned that The Ohio State University accepted my mailart archive & that I wrote a finding aid which can be accessed online. It’s organized in banker’s boxes by person (alphabetized) & decade, starting from the ’70s until mid-August 2018, and at some point I will be adding more to this archive. Artistamp sheets I received in the mail are in two huge binders. The call number for the “MAILART AND ARTISTAMPS Received by C. Mehrl Bennett” collection is part of this direct link: https://library.osu.edu/collections/spec.rare.0245 or else access via the following 5-step tree guide: https://guides.osu.edu/africana/specialcollections and then click on Rare Books & Manuscripts Library and then click on Explore the Collection and then click on Archival Collections and then search for MAILART AND ARTISTAMPS

Tomislav Butkovic (aka Wilhelm Katastrof) at a mailart exhibit he hosted in his home in Roanoke VA during the annual AfterMAF (Marginal Arts Festival).

The Score: Balance a banana on your head. Take a selfie. Eat the banana.

Official Documentation: Three artistamp sheets issues were designed by C. Mehrl Bennett, and then 40 copies of each issue were printed & perforated by Darlene Altschul, with one stampsheet sent to each of 90 participants (as there are 30 people represented on each stampsheet issue). An official BHC (Banana Hat Challenge) 3 minute video documents all the participants’ images within an official certificate of completion of the BHC. Part of the inspiration for this project was a dream I had (as explained in the image below of an official BHC certificate of completion.) Another inspiration was a call for 3 minute videos that was put out this year by Bibiana Padilla Maltos, Alan Revich, and Keith Buchholz for a Covid-19 pandemic (socially distanced) ONLINE version of our annual FLUXFEST. The “official” BHC video premiered among 30 other three minute videos submitted for a Facebook watch party on March 21, 2021 at the FLUXFEST 2021 ONLINE event site HERE & NOW (after Fluxfest Online happened on March 21 & 22) the “Official” 3 minute BHC video is also HERE at YouTube.

Unofficial Documentation: OVER 100 people submitted their selfie images for this project, but only 90 spots were available in the artistamp sheets. Some images not included in the artistamps sheets may have been multiple shots sent by one person, or they may have used software to create a digital banana on their self-image (thus re-interpreting the score instructions), or the banana was NOT a banana or was NOT balanced on their head (for example: duct taped to the forehead), or they may simply have submitted their image after all the spots were already claimed in the three artistamp issues. Because the BHC call was so popular, I had to up the original deadline for images by one month due to the limitation of space on three stampsheet issues. As the “official” video had a time limit restriction of three minutes, and it seemed like a better idea to simply create TWO videos, and allow ALL the submitted images in an “unofficial” video which is closer to eight minutes long. This unofficial video does not show the images in a stamp format as in the ‘official’ video (where the stamp format is used within the official certificate, see image below). Instead, the images are uncropped & more true to the originals submitted by each participant. In addition, I included 3 images at the end which show the 3 artistamp sheets, giving due credit to the printer & perforator, Darlene Altschul.

I have made the UNOFFICIAL BHC video available on YouTube. It has a different sound track than the official video and is five minutes longer (close to 8 minutes ). Watch it by clicking HERE (it should pop up at YouTube in a separate window).

RE: Darlene Altschul’s submitted image: Darlene lives in southern California where she has banana trees growing on her property. The FLOWER of the banana tree is HUGE with incredible, tropical petal shapes and beautious purple tones. If you’ve never seen the blossoms on a banana tree, take at look at Darlene K. Altschul of DKA Press in the BHC certificate below, as she is not wearing the ‘fruited’ banana, but the incredible flower of the banana tree!

Here are some postcard sized drawings which could be classified caricature art. I began these in December 2020. It all started with little water-based paintings I did on yupo paper, which has a thin plastic surface so the paint doesn’t dry quickly. This makes it easy to push around the colors to revise what’s there. I like to paint with Derwent ink sticks rather than watercolor cakes because the colors are more intense. For these drawings, the base which I draw on is a scan of the original abstract paintings, blown up from 2.5″x3.75″ to 4″x6″ (printed image is a bit less than the 4×6″ card.) So many of these start with the same abstract painting but turn into completely different happenings. I call these ‘obsessive’ because I’m drawing caricatures of birds and other animals, intimating female breasts where eyes might be, and seeing new critters in the negative space, or even sharing body parts with another critter next to it. The lines of the drawing happen very quickly & intuitively as I look at the abstractions & see the shapes appear. “Offerings to 2021” was published in “Maintenant #15: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing & Art”, July 2021, by Three Rooms Press. _ C. Mehrl Bennett

https://www.amazon.com/Maintenant-15-Journal-Contemporary-Writing/dp/1953103065