Solidarity by Vittorio Politano

Art of the Week

Visual art is often as communal of an experience as possible. One primary intention behind paintings and sculptures is usually to have them exhibited widely, spreading messages and evoking the emotions in as broad of an audience as can be assembled.

In a time when large gatherings are strictly prohibited in most parts of the world, this dynamic has been forced to change. While online audiences are still accessing artwork, international artists are corresponding on a more intimate level, rarely addressing or interacting with large audiences all at once. “My View From Home,” a mail art project led by Nashville’s Jason Brown, is exploring this dynamic in an interesting way — it is collecting pieces sent by post from around the world in an attempt to document daily life and artistic vision in what has become the new normal.

“Mail art is a form of artistic expression that is typically sent through the postal system,” explains a media release from the project. “Due to mandatory quarantines in several countries, pieces can also be sent via email. To date, the project has received submissions from Italy, India, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Uruguay, England, Russia, Brazil, Austria, Singapore, Turkey and the United States, with pieces being received daily.”

Participants are free to leverage whatever technique they like and can submit artwork of any size, provided it can travel through the postal system. As the name implies, the theme is the sender’s view from home, whether that is interpreted literally or with imaginative liberties. Pieces from the resulting collection are inspiring, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and whimsical.

Solidarity, submitted by Vittoria Politano, came from Catanzaro, Italy, a country that was struck acutely by the novel coronavirus. From a place where the infection rate has been incredibly high, leading to some of the most severe lockdown orders in the world, the piece evokes anxiety, pressure, faith and ambiguity.

The front of the postcard from Politano

In addition to soliciting work that can uniquely convey these feelings from around the world, “My View From Home” has resurrected a form of art curation that predated digital submissions. The most famous mail art program was instituted by mid-century collagist Ray Johnson, known as the New York Correspondence School. Johnson’s program has influenced Brown’s at a time when distance is required, but some form of artistic contact is still sought.

“A work of art becomes mail art once it is dispatched, disappearing forever from the artist’s hands,” per the “My View From Home” website. “Mail art forms a community of likeminded artists. Each piece of mail art is unique and often a collage that might aggressively engage social, artistic and hot topical political issues or might harvest images from pop culture… Rubber stamps, stickers, paint and other material are frequently combined in mail art collage. After artistic treatment, items such as common postcards to plastic bottles enter into the mail art network.”

Brown is soliciting work for the project until May 31, 2020. After its deadline, the project will be donated to the special collections department at Vanderbilt University Library.

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