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My Missouri 2021 Photo Project Exhibit

In celebration of its 200th year, Missouri 2021, an initiative of The State Historical Society of Missouri, coordinated the My Missouri 2021 Photo Project and it’s visiting our library!

In 2018, Missouri 2021 invited professional and amateur photographers from across the state to capture and share unique and meaningful aspects of place in Missouri. Of the nearly 1,000 photographs submitted, 200 were chosen for a traveling exhibition – including several of Joplin and surrounding areas!

My Missouri 2021 is oriented around the four seasons and showcases the geographic and cultural landscape of the state. They provide an opportunity on the occasion of Missouri’s Bicentennial to reflect upon and increase the understanding of the state’s rich diversity while recognizing the many things its people share. My Missouri 2021 will be in The Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery (off of our lobby) from Saturday, September 4, 2021, through Sunday, September 26, 2021.

Shelter Insurance® is the platinum sponsor of the My Missouri 2021 exhibition. The exhibition was designed by PRO Expo Exhibits, the gold sponsor for the show, and supported by contributors to The State Historical Society of Missouri. Exhibits in the library are curated by Post Art Library. For more information, contact Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x1041.

 

 

Tell your Tale with Art! Summer Reading Art Challenge Display is open now

In partnership with the Post Art Library, the Summer Reading Art Challenge 2021 “Tell your Tale with Art! What’s the Story of You?!” display is now open and ready for visitors! The display features over forty entries that were created by our community. These local artists used all forms, mediums, and mixed-media to create their designs. The artwork will be exhibited in the Local History and Genealogy section of the Library from now until September 25, 2021.

This display is totally free to view, no Library card is necessary. We are also urging our visitors to vote for their favorite artwork in each category. A “People’s Choice” winner will be chosen for Children’s, Teen, and Adult entries. Come and enjoy these beautiful creations soon.

Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler

In 2014 we, meaning Post Art Library (the privately funded not-for-profit arts organization located inside Joplin Public Library since 1981), put out a call for entry for mail art. The idea was to create a one-off exhibit of mail art received from all over the world to introduce locals to the medium and encourage their participation. At the time, I was myself somewhat new to engaging with mail art and my experience with the world-wide mail art Network – yes, that’s a thing – was limited at best. Yet there I was, helping to coordinate a mail art call for entry and co-curate the resulting show. Enter Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler’s Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art.

This book differs from other mail art books that I’ve read (such as Mail Me Art by Darren Di Lieto and Correspondence Art, edited by Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet, both of which are wonderful) in that it’s not only a gallery of mail art, but a sort of mail art workshop, as the authors offer oodles of advice for how to make mail art, start a mail art project, and navigate the mail art world. Plus, it introduces readers to mail art terminology and, perhaps most importantly, mail art etiquette.

But what’s mail art? A basic, common definition of mail art (a.k.a. correspondence or postal art) is that mail art is when people send small-scale works of art to one another through the postal service, often with the package itself being considered the work of art. Frankly, that definition falls flat and fails to describe the vibrancy of this decades-long movement. In my experience, the best way to describe mail art is to hand someone a stack of it. The only sure thing about mail art is that it is, as Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler write, for everyone: “Anyone can be a mail artist, regardless of skill level or style of artwork.” The mail art itself is all over the place and all mediums are welcome. (The authors remind us, however, not to send anyone anything that we don’t want to deal with in our own mailboxes, such as perishable items.)

Although mail art is for everyone, the Network, like any other, has some basic rules. Namely, that “every piece of mail art that comes into your mailbox should receive some sort of acknowledgement in return.” That is, send something back! In the mail art world, this reciprocity is known as documentation. “No returns” is another tenet of mail art exchanges, meaning that each piece you receive is yours to keep, just as each piece you send out is someone else’s to keep. I appreciate that Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler tell us the rules and “Time-honored Traditions” of mail art culture at the start. It’s as if they’re telling us that if we cannot respect those rules, then we needn’t read further or participate.

Of course, there are non-Network rules that mail artists must abide by, such as those of the postal service (or services, when mailing internationally). As such, we’re reminded to become familiar with our local postal regulations and to keep in mind that mail is categorized based not only on shape, but on thickness and weight. For example, if an envelope exceeds the maximum dimensions or thickness, then it may be categorized as a package and, accordingly, require more postage. The chapter that touches on regulations also includes “The Ten Commandments of Mail Art,” “The Seven Sins of Mailing,” and “Seven Suggestions for Shepherding Your Mail Art Safely to Its Destination.” You’ll also find tips on wooing your mail carrier and becoming friends with those who work in the post office.

The bulk of the book isn’t about defining mail art or mail art rules, but about having fun and making mail art. A few pages cover turning everyday objects, such as produce stickers, wrappers, leaves, and bird feathers into mailable mail art. What to do with those old dryer sheets? Mail them! As the authors discovered, they make for durable mail art. The point is that you may creatively make use of whatever you have nearby and whatever you find laying around, like found objects, old catalogs, junk mail, etc.

Ideas for decorating and illustrating envelopes, whether ready-made or those you create yourself, are included in this title, as are other techniques, such as paper-folding, texturing, and creating patterns, as well as stenciling, faux postage and artistamps, refining your handwriting, finding pen pals, and developing your postal personality.

My old friend, Chapter 10, details how to start a mail art project of your own, including writing a call for entry, creating documentation, and developing a correspondence register, which is more involved than keeping a list or address book of mail art contacts because it has more information. For example, a correspondence register might have columns for name, address, what you received, when you received it, what you sent back, when you sent it, and any other tidbits that you’d care to include. Trust, when coordinating a mail art project, which involves sending documentation (i.e. mail art thank yous) to those who send to you, a register is handy!

“You Can Take It with You: The Traveling Mail Art Kit,” is one of my favorite chapters. In the chapter, the authors emphasize that “mail art can happen anywhere, at any time, and in any place.” Think a waiting room that you’re stuck in, when you’re on hold making a phone call, or utilizing public transportation, or some such situation. The idea behind the mail art kit is that it’s possible to make mail art even when time is limited. The “Suggested Items for a Well-stocked Mail Art Kit” list is great, though your kit may contain whatever you like. What’s in my kit varies from time to time, though at minimum it includes stamps, stationary, and a few envelopes.

Peppered throughout the book are mini-interviews with mail artists from around the world, as well as great visuals, with the book ending with a mail art gallery followed by a contributor’s list, further resources, and an envelope template. Interestingly, the authors became friends when getting to know one another through mail art after meeting at a book arts event. Thus, the mail art that they’ve exchanged is a visual account of how their friendship developed—so cool!

So, is Good Mail Day a good primer for aspiring mail artists? Indeed, as it continues to guide me through what started as a one-off mail art project in 2014 and has since turned into an ongoing project for our growing collection. At the time of this writing, we have 300+ pieces of mail art from around the world in our collection and we’re about half-way into our third mail art exhibit, which is accompanied by an active call for entry. Visit us at www.postartlibrary.org to learn more about Post Mail Art Projekt 2021: Show Me Mail Art and check out Hinchcliff and Gilligan Wheeler’s Good Mail Day to learn how to get started.

As always, happy reading. And happy mailing!

Connie Miller’s “C is for Color”

Post Art Library presents Connie Miller‘s “C is for Color” exhibit in our Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery from Saturday, June 12-August 31, 2021. Although enjoyed by people of all ages, “C is for Color” is an exhibit especially for children, as it’s hung at their eye-level and consists of a series of colorful acrylic paintings of animals–just in time for the Tails & Tales summer reading challenge! Starting Saturday, June 12, 2021 artist-provided take-home kits will be available in the Children’s Department on a first come, first serve basis while supplies last. For more information, contact Jill at 417-623-7953 x1041.

https://www.facebook.com/postartlibrary/posts/10158582857304355

Summer Reading Art Challenge

It’s time for the Post Art Library Summer Reading Art Challenge (SRAC)! This year, the theme for summer reading is Tails & Tales. In keeping with that theme, the prompt for SRAC 2021 is:

“Tell Your Tale with Art! What’s the story of you?!”

You may pick up your artboard and entry form from any public service desk within the library. Entries will be accepted for three categories: Adult (ages 18+), Teen (entering 6th-12th grades), and Kids (birth-5th grade). Entries must be returned to any public service desk within the library by 5pm on Sunday, July 31, 2021.

All SRAC 2021 entries will be exhibited in the Genealogy, Local History, and Post Reading Room wing inside the library from August 14-September 25, 2021. People’s Choice ballots for each category will be collected in the library during the exhibit. People’s Choice winners will be announced on October 1, 2021 and those winners will receive a prize when they pick up their artwork.

Participation is FREE and open to the public. A library card is NOT necessary. SRAC is an annual art challenge and show meant to encourage exploration of the visual arts through creating art based on Missouri’s state-wide theme for summer reading. For more information, contact Jill at 417-623-7953 x1041.

Art Exhibit: The ABCs of Folklore and Slang

The ABCs of Folklore and Slang, an exhibit featuring 26 linocuts by artist Deby Gilley, is open now through Sunday, May 30, 2021 in The Bramlage and Willcoxon Foundation Gallery located off of our main lobby.

Inspired by positive feedback about the titles she gives her works, this series is based on an alphabetical sequence of key letters of the words within the titles. Gilley created these works, which reflect an Ozark heritage, using the relief-printmaking process.

“I am hopeful that my chosen images and titles offers a new and refreshing experience to the use of the slang and familiar sayings. Some of the images are people and animals that I know very well,” said Gilley.

Her book, The ABCs of Folklore and Slang Told in 26 Linocuts, was released in 2020. For more information, contact Post Art Library director Jill Sullivan at 417-623-7953 x1041 or jhsullivan@postartlibrary.org.

Art in the library is curated by Post Art Library, a 501c3 not-for-profit arts organization located inside Joplin Public Library.

A Pair of Comics–Classics and Cats

Long Story Short: 100 Classic Books in Three Panels by Lisa Brown

Cats of the Louvre by Taiyo Matsumoto

I had a chance to reduce my “To Be Read” (TBR) pile by a handful of titles over the holidays, including some comics and graphic novels. Two of the books took an interesting approach using art to comment on other creative works.

Author and illustrator Lisa Brown’s Long Story Short: 100 Classic Books in Three Panels left me in stitches. I love her ability to distill hefty literary works into a trio of illustrated boxes and a sharply-penned sentence. C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe becomes “Don’t take Turkish delight from strangers.” Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire is boiled down to “It’s all fun and games until you have a kid.” Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle shows all the gory details of sausage making with a single word in each panel, “DON’T. EAT. MEAT.”

Brown’s pen is equally sharp when it comes to illustrations. She uses india ink on paper then colors digitally with a muted palette of earth tones, grey, and dusty blues, reds, and olive greens. When she uses a bright color–as she does for The Scarlet Letter–it’s with great effect. Picture two panels in drab browns and blacks except for the pop of white collars and a bright red “A” on the subject, “Adulteress” for Hester Prynne and “Apostate” for Rev. Dimmesdale. The payoff is in the last panel bathed in a bright red background with a white “A” for “Aftermath” above Pearl’s blonde hair and bubblegum-pink dress.

Long Story Short packs volumes (and massive spoilers) in only 65 pages. There’s a lot to take in, including amusing cross-references to other chapters. (In case you’re wondering, it’s “horror” for The Jungle.) The book’s well worth a return trip or two or three if only to catch all of the little touches. While it’s no substitute for reading an assignment, Long Story Short works as a humorous accompaniment. Give this book to a favorite English major or someone who appreciates dry wit; suggested for high school and up.

If I were giving the same treatment to my second selection, it would sound something like this, “Paintings are real. Life is surreal. Also cats.” Cats of the Louvre by Taiyo Matsumoto is not about a feline photo shoot or real-life museum cats. It is a gorgeously illustrated, surreal meditation on time and the nature of art itself.

The narrative structure–calling it a plotline is a stretch–weaves multiple stories into a surreal tale following a group of cats living in the museum’s attic, an art conservator restarting her life after a loss, a little girl who has lives in a painting, and a night watchman searching for his sister who mysteriously disappeared in childhood. Each story threads its way through the world of the Louvre where characters intersect with each other and with the art. Dialogue and visual metaphors point to Matsumoto’s thoughts on time’s fleeting nature and art’s immediate and lasting beauty.

Matsumoto’s black and white inkwork looks a lot more like a sketchbook (a refined, very accomplished one) than a graphic novel for a commercial audience. Panel lines appear hand-drawn, slightly uneven and varying in thickness while his shading and crosshatching lend the stories a hazy, dreamlike quality. He creates charming, lifelike cats who take on a slightly disturbing human appearance when the story is told from their point of view. (The effect is not nearly as bad as those in the recent Cats movie.) Adding to the surreal experience are loads of extreme closeups of everything–eyes, faces, hands, paws, paintings, architecture, desktops, papers, art supplies. Even two large cat eyes look out from the book’s spine.

Reading Cats of the Louvre is like stepping into a hushed, contemplative funhouse. It’s weird. It’s surreal. It’s overflowing with metaphors and symbolism and hidden commentary and deep thoughts. It’s not meant to be pigeonholed. There is more than meets the eye; it will reward readers who come with an open mind. A good benchmark might be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; if you like it, try this title.

Originally a manga (Japanese comic) series, this single-volume, English edition of Cats of the Louvre is accessible as a whole or with a pause after each chapter. Like other manga, it’s meant to be read from right to left and the book begins at what Western books identify as the back cover. Give this title to teens and adults who like the surreal and have the patience to travel over 400 pages of it.  Happy reading!

101 Art Destinations in the U.S.: Where Art Lives Coast to Coast by Owen Phillips

This is an exciting book. Before discussing why, however, I’d like to give a shout out to Ridpath Club for providing this title in loving memory of their friend and former clubmate, Martha Fowles, who loved art and loved to travel. We’re happy to have the opportunity to share Ms. Fowles love of art and travel with our library patrons via this title.

101 Art Destinations in the U.S.: Where Art Lives Coast to Coast by Owen Phillips is a superb travel guide for anyone and everyone who cares about art. Admittedly, I briefly considered writing about something other than a travel guide for this review, in light of our current circumstances, but no doubt many of you, like me, are experiencing wanderlust. Plus, many of the destinations Phillips includes have a large online presence, so you can peruse digital collections and take virtual tours.

I appreciate that Phillips took a regional approach in the organization of this book: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, Midwest, South Central, Mountain, Southwest, and Pacific Coast and Hawaii. Organizing the destinations regionally rather than by type or some other method seems the most thoughtful approach.

Within each region, the destinations are further arranged by state. Thus, the next time you’re visiting Aunt Sally in Texas (South Central region) or attending a conference in Utah (Mountain region), you can easily flip to that section of the book and explore art destinations in that area.

Phillips introduces each of his 101 entries with a beautiful, colorful photograph, either of the destination itself or one of its exhibits, the name and address of each location, a well-written brief history and description of each destination, and information about nearby points-of-interest.

For example, if you’re visiting the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY, you might stop by the nearby LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton to take in the sculpture gardens, which are comprised of pieces by Buckminster Fuller, Yoko Ono, de Kooning, and others.

Another pleasurable feature of this title is that it offers a variety of destinations, such as houses, memorials, museums, parks, studios, etc., as well as represents an array of types of visual art, such as architecture, ceramics, painting, public art, sculpture, and more.

In addition to being an expertly arranged art-destinations travel guide, this book is, to state it simply, fun. It’s the sort of book that you can read from cover-to-cover or just the sections pertinent to your travel plans. My favorite way to read it is to open it at random and explore whichever entry I’m presented with.

This read-at-random approach led me to The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL, which began in the 1930s. Their collections are comprised of artworks from all eras and all continents, many of which can be viewed online at ringling.org.

To be honest, I cannot recommend this book enough. In fact, I’m acquiring a copy for my personal library. Not only it useful for traveling and armchair traveling alike, but it’s a nice conversation piece and an interesting coffee table book, if smaller than most.

Finally, I leave you with some of my favorite art destinations mentioned in the book that I highly recommend exploring online and, if possible, in person when they reopen: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR; the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, OK; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO; and The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, OH.

Take care and, as always, happy reading.

MSSU Senior Sneak Peek

MSSU Senior Sneak Peek, an art show comprised of artworks by recent or soon-to-be recent graduates of Missouri Southern State University’s Art Department, is on display in our Local History, Genealogy, and Post Reading Room gallery. A preview of the artists’ senior shows, Sneak Peek features art by Jocelyn Lechuga, Lydia Humphreys, McKenzie Wesley, Sydney Buffington, and Jacklyn Kidd.

Library exhibitions and displays are curated by Post Art Library. Their mission is to enrich the community of Joplin by perpetuating Dr. Winfred L. and Elizabeth C. Post’s love of art, architecture, history, and history preservation through public access to arts-related library resources and services, educational programming, events, and exhibits. Visit www.postartlibrary.org for more information.

 

Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, and Other Graphic Patterns by Jude Stewart

What are you wearing? Plaid (tartan)? Paisley? How about stripes or polka dots? Perhaps a fleur-de-lis pin graces your lapel? Regardless, these motifs and patterns and more have fascinating associations and histories as told by Jude Stewart in his book Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, and Other Graphic Patterns.

In addition to content, the book itself is somewhat unconventional by design, both physically and stylistically. Titles found in the adult nonfiction collection tend to be large and heavy, whereas Patternalia is small and lightweight. Stylistically, Patternalia defies the typical beginning, middle, end formula for telling such stories. The text is dotted with cross-references so readers may develop an alternate storyline. It’s also embellished with quotes and bold graphics throughout.

Stewart starts us on our journey with a crash course in patterns and pattern lingo as well as an explanation of how our brains perceive “symmetry, orderliness, and simplicity”–basically, a pattern–and how we define and process this into what we see. He discusses ‘pareidolia,’ “the process of seeing imaginary forms, especially faces, in random stimuli,” such as outlets, and ‘apophenia,’ which is the perception of pattern where there is none, which may be either visual or conceptual. A conceptual example of apophenia is that of “gambler’s fallacy.”

Before we delve into particular patterns proper, we learn a bit about the history of patterns and the textile industry. The gist is that as production became increasingly industrialized, patterned textiles became cheaper, easily portable, and shareable across cultures. As patterns and patterned textiles crossed national borders, their meanings could change or evolve, such as with popular “African print” textiles. (Why? Read the book!)

As pattern and textile technology continued to advance, patterns were able to be printed directly onto textiles, which led to disposable fashions. Think Paper Caper dresses and such. Imagine wearing your clothes a few times and throwing them into the trash can rather than the laundry basket. These sorts of disposable fashions didn’t fall out of fashion until the rise of environmental consciousness. (Thank goodness for environmental consciousness!)

But what about the patterns? I dare say we take them for granted, no doubt due to their ubiquitousness–they’re everywhere! Patterns hold histories and connotations, whether we realize it or not. Take polka dots, for example. According to Stewart, dots and spots–polka dots–gained popularity “from an extended craze for polka music” that overtook Europe in the mid-1800s. But in Medieval Europe, polka dots were reminiscent of disease and death. Specifically, syphilis, bubonic plague, measles, and more. Yet we enjoy polka dot patterns on an array of items, from notebooks to scrapbooking paper, t-shirts to bathing suits, bedding to curtains, and so on, without considering their history. Not to mention the parallel Stewart draws between dot art and activism–bravo!

Overall, Stewart’s Patternalia is as charming as it is interesting. My only criticism is that it ends rather abruptly, not unlike this review. As for the other patterns–plaid, paisley, stripes, fleur-de-lis, checkered, houndstooth, etc.–you’ll have to check it out for yourself. I leave you with this anonymous quote: “Even a small dot can stop a big sentence, but a few more dots can give a continuity…”

As always, happy reading.

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