In the summer of 2019, Debra Mulnick, a local artist, spoke about her dynamic relationship with and growing collection of mail artists’ books, printmaking objects, stamp sheets, handmade papers, and upcycled found objects. She suggested we organize an exhibition, the first in Idaho; together, we distributed a call for art, not knowing the extent to which COVID-19 and United States elections would affect the United States Postal Service. Still, by late 2020 Boise State University received over 250 objects from 127 artists from 24 countries and from 19 US states. These will be archived in the Special Collections and Archives and will be a valued repository for student scholars researching ephemeral and performance art.
Mail art is a broad term that applies to any object found, made, and manipulated and then intentionally posted for delivery through a country’s postal service. Some art is packaged and enveloped; some envelopes constitute the artwork. It includes rubber stamps and the impressions they leave on Add and Pass sheets, mailers, and postcards. It includes designed stamp sheets, perforated by various means, to simulate postage stamps (though they cannot be legally used as postal tender). It includes any number of original works, improvised or organized collages of stickers, texts, printed ephemera, and recycled materials.
In the early 20th century, mail art was avant-garde, a rebellious act of the Dadaists who rejected the commodification of art, the rule of galleries and museums in determining the value of work, and instead celebrated the use of non-traditional materials and techniques in artmaking. Hannah Hoch’s technique of collaging hand cut papers from printed publications and arranging them to create biting, social commentaries would influence mid-century artists in the Pop and Fluxus movements. Ray Johnson would take up the practice of mailing artworks as a new kind of performance, one that was itself ephemeral and unseen except by an audience of unknown postal workers and his intended (or unintended) recipient.
Mail artists may still be considered subversive and often scathing in their criticism of
political and human behaviors. But often, mail art is just as much about reaching out, creating collaborative relationships made accessible through the Eternal Network, and finding artistic freedom. Anyone with a stamp and an idea can participate.
In the late 1990s, Tom Trusky, a professor in the English Department until his death in 2009 and director of the Idaho Center of the Book, began a correspondence and friendship with Evelyn Sooter, a northern Idaho bookmaker and artist. He wrote that he was “smitten at first sight with her bookworks.” In her mailed correspondence, Sooter posted collaged postcards, toys, pop cultural ephemera, handmade books, and letters. Tom Trusky’s interest in zines, self-published and often photocopied artist books, also led him to a relationship with Marcos Kurtycz, a Polish artist living in Mexico City. Kurtycz experimented with graphic illustration, performance and book arts using ancient and indigenous symbols to comment on environmental issues in Mexico. Small parts of their collections are exhibited in Postal Outliers as a sampling of the simultaneously esoteric and universal nature of mail art. To see more of the collection, please visit the Albertsons Library Special Collections and Archives.
Thank you to Debra Mulnick who shared her address book of mail artists as well as selections from her collection to exhibit here. Thank you to Mary Arnold, a MAP Fellow through the Idaho Commission on the Arts who assisted in planning the curatorial design. A special thank you to colleagues at campus Central Receiving who delivered to my office strange and wonderful objects, including a mailed pizza, a posted paintbrush, and a stamped shoe. Thank you to colleagues at Albertsons Library Special Collections and Archives who helped to mine the treasures of the Tom Trusky collection. And finally, a heartfelt thank you to our global postal workers, civil servants who make this entire world of mail art possible.
Character Development: Portrait Studies
Digital Paintings by Michael Chambers
January 10 – March 14, 2021 in the Trueblood Pop Up Gallery
Playing with the process by which a simple sketch evolves into a more refined work, Michael Chambers completed more than 100 digital artworks over the past 18 months. “The process of creating, changing, adding lines and textures, experimenting, erasing, and re-working is endlessly fascinating.” During this process, the artist continually asked himself when a work was complete or finished. Even with the ease of a tablet, a software that allowed infinite variations, and an imagination that proved ceaseless, Chambers found the answer to this question to be elusive and wildly different for each portrait; “finished” proved to be inaccurate.
This exhibition of curated works intends to shed light on Chambers’ creative process that begins with a few marks and ends as a portrait of an individual with their own characters, choices, and storylines.
This exhibition is made possible with a Quickfund grant the Idaho Commission on the Arts.
Exhibiting in the Student Union Building
Located on the second floor of the SUB above the main staircase
Due to COVID-19, the Student Union Building Fine Art Gallery is open to faculty, students, and Bronco ID holders. Virtual Tours and Documentation of exhibitions are available at www.boisestate.edu/finearts. Please stay healthy, and we will see you in person soon.
Student Union Fine Arts Gallery, Boise State University, is located at 1700 University Drive on the second floor of the Student Union Building. Admission is free to all students, staff, and community members. Parking is available for an hourly fee in metered spaces and in the Lincoln and Brady Garages.
Located on the second floor of the SUB adjacent to the Trueblood Room
Due to COVID-19, the Student Union Building Trueblood Pop Up Gallery is open to faculty, students, and Bronco ID holders. Virtual Tours and Documentation of exhibitions are available at www.boisestate.edu/finearts. Please stay healthy, and we will see you in person soon.
The Trueblood Pop Up Gallery is located at 1700 University Drive on the second floor of the Student Union Building. Admission is free to all students, staff, and community members. Parking is available for an hourly fee in metered spaces and in the Lincoln and Brady Garages.
The Student Union Permanent Art Collection was established to introduce students, faculty, staff and community members to a wide range of artwork from multiple traditions and periods in art history. Encompassing work from various artists with unique backgrounds and cultures, and employing numerous media, the collection creates a diverse mixture of style, content and subject matter. Read more about these collections.
Our mission is to create a sense of home for students to study, to meet friends, to make connections, and we believe that art should be an integral part of that shared experience. So we have made available several collections–through commissions, through generous gifts–in the Student Union Building.
We do this through several avenues–commissioning work, buying work, and accepting gifts of work.
When you purchase work from the Student Union Fine Art Gallery or the Trueblood Pop Up Gallery, you support the fund to buy new art for the Student Union. Artists agree to a 40% commission; this commission is directed to a Foundational account that serves as a savings account from which we can purchase works of art.
If you would like to add to the student experience at the Student Union Building through a gift of artwork from your own collection, please contact Fonda Portales, University Art Curator and Collections Manager, at email@example.com.
we are here to help you
Do You Want to Exhibit in the SUB?
Each year, the University Art Curator opens a call for proposals to exhibit in Student Union Galleries. If you are an artist, maker, or think you would like to be one, please consider the Student Union Building Fine Art Galleries and seek out our current calls for proposals.
Each year, the Student Union Building exhibits 12 shows between the Fine Arts Gallery and the Trueblood Pop Up Gallery. We understand that in this wonderfully creative city, you have many opportunities to visit exhibitions throughout town. If you have needed to skip some of the exhibits at the Student Union Building, we have a list of artists who have shown in the recent past.