Paula Wild wrote
Artist Going Postal at Comox Valley Art Gallery
Feel like you need to get away but travel isn’t in your budget this season?
Then pay a visit to the Comox Valley Art Gallery (CVAG) where you can instantly be immersed in artworks from 41 different countries and vicariously “meet” more than 340 artists.
CVAG is hosting the first ever Mail Art Olympix in the Public and George Sawchuk galleries. Following the Comox Valley exhibit, the show will be displayed at the Penticton Art Gallery and at the Havana Gallery in Vancouver.
The show is guest curated by artist Ed Varney who contacted participants mostly by mail and others via the Internet. The Opus Newsletter also listed the project in its Artist Opportunities section.
All of the work on display in the gallery was mailed to Varney specifically for the Mail Art Olympix.
An intricate mix of bohemian flair, beauty and humour, the artwork is limited only by the creativity and imagination of the artists and the size of an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper. As well as covering the walls of the two galleries, the detail-rich exhibit includes eight large photo albums, several racks of envelopes, and an old 18th century stamp perforator.
Divided into categories of Self Portraits, Manifestos, and Artistamps, the show is an intriguing sample of the international art scene. And it is very unique because there are few, if any, places in the world where a person can view art from Turkey, Brazil, Ireland, Romania, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Indonesia, the USA, and the Comox Valley all in one room.
I was fascinated by the envelopes, which are works of art themselves. Again and again I returned to the elaborate decorations on a missive from Russia. It was a surprise to discover that many of the envelopes contain notes to Varney about the Mail Art Olympix. And yes, visitors are allowed to read Varney’s mail, as long as they put everything back in the envelope it came from. It’s even possible to get in touch with an individual artist, just ask at reception and CVAG staff will provide the contact info.
While the Public Gallery contains the majority of the exhibit, don’t miss the Artistamps display in the Sawchuk Gallery. Most of these artistic renditions of postal stamps show the same stamp repeated on the sheet but one depicts an entire winter landscape.
Mail Art originated in the 1960s as artists around the world began to exchange works of art through the postal system. Predating the technological age, it was a way for artists to network on a personal level away from galleries and the art market. In more recent years, the high cost of postage has meant that Mail Art exhibits are often sponsored by an art gallery, thus becoming a public display rather than just a personal exchange.
In 1970, Varney became one of the first Canadian artists to participate in Mail Art networking. He’s curated several Mail Art exhibits but this is the first one tied to the Olympics.
“Although I will continue to be involved in smaller projects, this will be my last large Mail Art show. I will definitely make the effort to remain in touch with many of the artists and trade Mail Art on a more personal basis.”
In traditional Mail Art etiquette, the artwork becomes the property of the artist or institution hosting the show, which means Varney gets to keep all the cool art.
“As curator at the Museo Internacionale de Neu Art, the show will eventually end up in the Museo collection which currently resides in my attic. Since I’m no longer a young person, I’ve begun thinking about deaccession of parts, or all, of my collection and have a few ideas about institutions that might be interested.”
The show runs until December 31st, 2010.
The Comox Valley Record