"Artistamps are personal, fun, banal, stupid, awful and beautiful." - Patricia Tavenner

The First California Artistamp Exhibit
February 26 through April 24, 1995

by Patricia Tavanner

Artists have always decorated their correspondence. With the appearance of the postage stamp, opportunities for this type of expression increased. Fluxus artists of the 50s and 60s were the first to create pages of artistamps and mail artists, or correspondence artists, began to explore this format in earnest in the early 70s. Canadian artist Mike Bidner coined the term "artistamp" or "artistamps" and gave this new media its name.

Stamps are associated with envelopes and envelopes with mail. Artistamps are not ment as a substitute for denominational postage stamps, but as an addition of personal expression to correspondence. Interestingly, many philatelists collect a category of stamps known as 'Cinderella' stamps. Artistamps fall in this category of seals and stamps not valid for postage. Like postage stamps, some artistamps are single stamps and others are offered in whole sheets of 8 1/2 by 11 or larger. Some are perforated and others are not. Artistamps are anything that comes to mind for those who create them - artist and non-artist alike. Artistamps are personal, fun, banal, stupid, awful and beautiful. They commemorate fictitious events in imaginary countries, represent 'first editions' that honor rock-n-roll stars or express political views of state and statesmen. Artistamps are outrageous, ridiculous, crazy, obnoxious, sexist, private and wonderful. Just keep listing adjectives - there will be stamps to represent them all.

The earliest documentation of artistamps in 1974 was made by Jas. W. Felter while Curator/Director of Exhibitions at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. Felter curated an exhibition of stamps of 35 artists and seven artist groups from nine countries. The exhibition and the catalog of this event represented early Fluxus stamps by Robert Watts and Dana Ashley. This collection toured the world for a few years and spread the concept of artistamps. Three artists that were represented at that exhibition 21 years ago are included in the First California Artistamp Exhibit: Patricia (Pat) Tavenner, Ed Higgins III and Jas. W. Felter.

The First California Artistamp Exhibit at University of California, Berkeley - San Francisco Extension contains stamps of about 170 artists from around the world, Recent work of students from my silk screen classes are included. The media includes "xerography", laser print, offset lithography, stone lithography, woodcut, rubber stamp, photographic silk screen, potato print and various combinations of the above.

Patricia Tavenner, 1995
Curator, Art Faculty
University of California, Berkeley Extension

For more information contact
Patricia Tavenner
The Eternal Press
P.O. Box 11032
Oakland, CA
USA 94611

Copyright ©1995, 96, 97 Patricia Tavenner, all rights reserved.

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