Last year, mail art experienced a renaissance as it became a way for artists to bridge their own isolation during the pandemic.
In 2020, Miami Beach-based Oolite Arts commissioned local artists to correspond with a contemporary artists to create visual conversations. The mail art blossomed to encompass not just distance and isolation, but freedom, parenting, and the “Say Their Names” movement.
South Florida can experience these works at Oolite Arts’ newest exhibition “Diverse Networks” through July 4. The exhibition combines these works with historic pieces that tell the story of this art form, which is rooted in arts advocacy and radical thought. Mail art is also considered one of the most accessible art forms, providing a point of entry for people to discover and participate in the visual arts, according to exhibition curator Laura Marsh.
“Mail art challenges more traditional art objects. These works can often feel like a stream of consciousness, where a note in the margin takes on a deeper meaning, and provide windows into an artist’s process,” Marsh said.
The historical pieces in the exhibition include works by George Brett, William Pope.L , Joseph Beuys, James Lee Byars, E.F. Higgins III, and Ray Johnson, and ephemera from The Vasari Project collection at Miami-Dade Public Library.
The Miami-based artists commissioned for the exhibition include the following people collaborating together: Marielle Plaisir and Alicia Rodriguez; Amalia Caputo, Janice Sloane, and Alexandra Kuhn; Yanira Collado, Lucian E. Ferster, and Kabuya Saffo; Nick Mashie and Saumitra Chandatreya; Stephen Arboite and Morel Doucet; Nabila Zoraya Santa-Cristo and Craig Butterworth; and Cara Despain and Mary Welcome.
The themes of the pieces are wide-ranging. Collado is creating a sculpture made from love letters sent by a soldier during World War II, provided by the soldier’s son who lives in Miami. Despain and Welcome’s works are large-scale photographs of post offices in their hometowns, an homage to a system that over the past year has become politicized. And Doucet and Arboite’s work discusses the Haitian practice of mailing hand-me-downs, using the envelope to explore texture and color.
Reserve a tour here.