As I experiment and attempt to bring ideas together different series are conceived. The "Dead Letter Office" is one of those. There were pieces I've done on postcards and fragments of old letters (handwritten, from days when that was the "norm") over the last few years.... some included in other series but that hadn't been explored on their own. This new series brings those ideas to a broader and deeper exploration. What follows is the "statement" on this series from it's new page:
Dead letters! Does it not sound like dead men?” ~Herman Melville
This series is about what becomes forgotten, what becomes lost. Like the reproductions of old postcards and letters on which they are painted, the landscapes superimposed upon them speak to the ever-changing places where human activity (“progress”) occurs. Throughout history, cities rise up where land meets water. Farms rise up where the cities end. Suburbs rise up out of farmland. And eventually commercial zones (strip malls, shopping malls etc..) rise up in and around those. All in the “service of progress and needs”. Eventually there is nothing left of what was before.
Old (handwritten) postcards and letters postmarked with dates and city names relegated to the “Dead Letter Office” -eventually auctioned off, sold on the internet- become metaphors for loss. Loss of our collective humanity, loss of the personal, handmade communication, loss of the slow, deliberate, thoughtful ways that connect(ed) us. Densely populated cities… faster, easier methods of “communication” giving rise to more atomization among us is ironic (at least). And is an illustration of “unintended consequences”.
Change is inevitable. “Progress” is a double-edged sword at best. It is difficult to “see” where it all leads us. I’m certain that (for example), the Native peoples living there, that (later) the colonist families that farmed (what would become) the “Lower East Side” of Manhattan…. the De Lancey Orchard, the Rivington Farm etc… could have ever conceived of what that place is now. I doubt that the immigrants who came to settle (in the tenements that would be built there) from Europe in the early 20th century could either. I, myself, would never have imagined that the blighted area I knew in the 1970’s would be the up-scale, desirable, “hip” place it is now, either.
The postcards & letters used in this series, with the landscapes painted on them… the surfaces scraped and worn and patinated- are an attempt to speak to these ideas.