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The Psychedelic Trivet: Part One
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 facto collaboration.

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 leave home!

[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 Bloch, 09/15/04

**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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Copyright (c) 2005 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.


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