|December 31, 2005: Collectors of cultural artifacts as embodied in everyday objects
often characterize the style of the 1970's as "blechlectic".
Because decorative themes collided willy-nilly. Creating
aesthetic and philosophical juxtapositions unhampered by (some
might say unhinged from) inner coherence. A prime example of
blechlecticism is what I call the psychedelic trivet.
Trivets are the little racks or slabs cooks put under hot pots
and dishes in order to protect tables and counter tops. Trivets
can be made from many materials including metal, wood or ceramic
tile. When not in use they typically hang on the wall near the
stove. Making them a natural for flights of kitchen fancy. Some
trivets impart wit and wisdom. Once upon a time comic depictions
of women wielding power over men via the ability to cook were
common. Now many women are as helpless in the kitchen as the
hapless hungry guys depicted on retro trivets. Yet strangely,
trivets showing both sexes enslaved by pizza deliverers haven't
become popular. Even though pizzas often arrive piping hot, in
need of a good trivet.
The majority of trivets are wordless exercises in decorative
themes dujour. Which in the 70's included mock Spanish and
cheesy post-hippie. Wrought iron candelabra, twisted into weird
arabesques, were big. As were psychedelia derived icons such as
butterflies, owls, mushrooms and daisies. Done in 60's wavy gravy
graphic style but drenched in eye popping 70's colors like
chemical spill orange and nuclear avocado. In the trivets of
the latter period ersatz espagnol and artificial flower power
married. Happily if not harmoniously. Imagine a heavy, ornate,
wrought iron frame supporting a ceramic tile picture of a
butterfly in flight. Rendered in colors so jarring you gotta wear
shades to prevent retina damage. To complete the mélange many
psychedelic trivets were made in Japan. So their butterflies,
owls, etc. resemble Japanese cartoon or trademark characters.
Are psychedelic trivets trivial? No more so than pottery found
in archeological digs and displayed in art and history museums.
Several thousand years from now archaeologists, be they from
earth or outer space, will carefully brush the dirt from
psychedelic trivets found beneath mounds of reparticlized
particle board (wrought iron & ceramic being meant for the ages
unlike say, the stuff from which condos are made) and museums
will boast of their newest blechlectic acquisitions. Scholars and
artists will rush to study and sketch the trivets. Dissertations
will be delivered. Fashionistas will incorporate butterflies,
owls, mushrooms and daisies into their designs and chemical spill
orange and nuclear avocado will glare anew. The phrase "Have a
nice day" will be fad speak for 15 future minutes before sinking
back into the shag rug of history. Such is the never ending cycle
of cultural birth, death and rebirth. Uh huh uh huh.
Those who feel sad about missing the blechlectic revival of 4000
AD take heart: museums of the future can already be found in
myriad strip malls on countless lost highways. Such museums
call themselves "flea markets". They label themselves in this
misleading fashion because the implications of time travel might
scare folks into what experts call "Future Shock".
Until recently, a major museum of the future could be found on
Route 30 just outside downtown Middleburgh in upstate New York.
In the largely agricultural and incredibly beautiful county
of Schoharie. This particular museum of the future was called
"Rich's Place". Though it was cunningly crafted to look like an
average chunk of single story commercial architecture, the bright
pink paint and garden of plastic flowers said museum museum
museum. As did the decorative wagon wheels leaning on the walls
and the sign announcing that POP-CORN could be found within. The
curators of Rich's Place seemed to be two guys who may or may not
have lived in a trailer out back. Others say the trailer was
merely a portal to another dimension. Since Rich's Place is no
more, one may assume that this particular portal has closed.
The interior of Rich's Place was one portal after another. Each
with a theme. There was the gallery of green tchotchkas. As well
as galleries devoted to blue and black ones. There was the hall
of crystal-- where jelly glasses and cocktail shakers glittered.
One of the most popular portals, particularly with children, was
the Christmas room. Where Santa ho-hoed all year long and Jesus
was always busy being born. In other rooms he was perpetually
dying and being resurrected. Crucifixes and saints could be
found around every corner at Rich's. The walls were crowded with
paintings of all kinds. From skillful amateur landscapes and
abstract works to outside outsider art and paint-by-number
masterpieces. Plus unfinished canvasses crying out for post
Like Rick's place in Casablanca, everyone came to Rich's Place
on Route 30. Not just one stop tourists or city slickers seeking
undervalued collectibles, but people from hither and thither who
visited again and again because they found Rich's museum of the
future entertaining and enlightening. After all, who knew human
beings were capable of carving so many different kinds of wall
plaques or making so many nik-nak shelves in shop class? Or that
the history of hair included coifs so huge that bouffant bonnets
were derigour for portable dryers? Or that Pyrex coffee mugs in
the decades post WWII went through so many aesthetic periods?
And then there were the psychedelic trivets...
At Rich's place I found the holy grail of psychedelic trivets.
Now hanging in my kitchen. Its heavy twisted frame surrounding
a ceramic tile sporting a hippie heart formed from psychedelic
lettering colored burning Cuyahoga River red. Spelling out the
words "If you don't succeed at first try a little ardor".
Which sounds a lot like a Mail Art motto.
In the Summer of 2004, I received an email from mail artist Carlo
Pittore announcing the death of his good friend, Bern Porter.
Also a mail artist. Both Pittore and Porter lived in Maine. In
the Summer of 2005, I received a sadly symmetrical announcement
from Carlo Pittore's friend Marianne Marrone Legassie that Carlo
had died. Though Carlo Pittore and Bern Porter were both major
on the Mail Art front, both also worked extensively in other
mediums. Including painting. "Pittore" in fact, means painting
in Italian.* Like many mail artists Carlo used a name other than
the one he received at birth. Since its beginning in the middle
of the last century (roughly) Mail Art has travelled back and
forth across the vast country of many peoples' minds. Mail
artists hold dual citizenship in their own specific locales
and in the country of Mail Art. Perhaps this is why so many
have names unique to that land.
In 2005, the Culture Commission of the city of Lorentzweiler in
the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, hosted a Mail Art show titled
"What is Mail Art?". The show was initiated by Francois "Fraenz"
Frisch and realized by Frisch and Pierre Hilbert. The municipal
administration of Lorentzweiler gave it full support. More than
250 artists from 34 countries participated. To quote Paul Bach,
deputy mayor in Lorentzweiler, "Never before have so many artists
from different countries shown their work in Lorentzweiler".
Many of the works sent in answer to the question "What is Mail
Art?" were purely visual. Some combined words & pictures.
Answers in English included:**
Mail Art is....the key to open the world.
Mail Art is sympathy of souls.
Mail-Art is not Jail-Art.
Mail Art is communication. But like a drug too.
Mail Art my ass. Looks like junk to me.
Mail Art makes me jump.
[Mail Art] is a great way to travel the world without having to
[Mail Art is] art sent through the mail to others for their
enjoyment with no thought of monetizing, gain or return.
My own answer was "Mail Art is the spider in the bottle". Affixed
to a graphic of a home-canning jar filled with moths, fireflies
& lady bugs, a Chinese man in lotus position, an egg shaped world
and a pure white spider with the head of a clown. Whose smile
contains the word "thrills".
Since its inception the question "What is Mail Art?" has been
asked again and again. Though one can certainly define some of
the forms Mail Art takes and the methods by which it travels
and spreads, there is ultimately a mystery at the heart of Mail
Art akin to that of love and faith. As Dutch mail artist Ruud Janssen wrote to Fraenz Frisch "And you, do you know what Mail
Art is? If so, please tell me and we'll discover together that we
don't know..." Yet at the show at Lorentzweiler, a great deal of
remarkable Mail Art was presented as the result of asking, once
again, an unanswerable question.
How Mail Art is that?
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
In Psychedelic Trivet Part Two, PEEP will peep at the excellent catalogue from the Lorentzweiler show as well as art/words/music received from Mark Greenfield & D. Zinovjev,
Simon Warren, Henning Mittendorf, Mike Dickau, Paula Jesgarz,
Mark Sonnenfeld, C. Z. Lovecraft, Isao Yoshii and Zan Hoffman.
Also featured will be a Christmas land created by anti eminent
domain (ED) protesters in New London, Connecticut USA. (For those
unfamiliar with the ED wars raging stateside the issue is land
grabs and population displacements by local governments in the
name of redevelopment.) Plus a new PEEP cover will blast off
2006 in the usual ultra pulp non-fiction style.
*Some Thoughts on the Life and Mail Art of Carlo Pittore, Mark
**Artists in order of quotes
Silvano Pertone, Italy, Jarmo Semila, Finland, Dr. Klaus Groh,
Germany, Marta Bosch, Spain, Wasted Paper, United Kingdom,
Antonio Amato, Italy, Susan Williamson, Canada, Dawn Amato, USA
"Let's be cosmopolitan! Nomadic! Risk it! Long live the postman!"
Baudhuin SIMON-PIG DADA-Crazy (of images), Habay-la-Neuve
(Belgium), December 2004
"Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms."
Sherlock Holmes to Watson, "The Greek Interpreter," The Memoirs
of Sherlock Holmes, 1894, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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