"Computers are a marvel, they're fabulous." - Jenny Soup

Ruud Janssen with Jenny Soup

TAM Mail-Interview Project

(WWW Version)

Started on: 7-3-1995

RJ: Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail- art network?

Reply on: 2-5-95

JS: I first got involved with mail art and the network back in 1987. I was living in San Francisco at the time, going to Art School. I was introduced to the addicting world of mail art by my boyfriend at that time, and thus the enigmatic Gagliones, the wacky and wonderful Radio Free Dada, the ever present (and past and future) John Held Jr., and others. I was instantaneously sucked into the network with full devotion. I have always enjoyed art and correspondence/ writing, and mail art became a perfect way to blend the two. Good friends were made through mail art, wonderful ideas were exchanged and a lot of stamps were used....

RJ: What kind of ideas (wonderful ideas as you mention them) do you mean. Can you give some examples?

Reply on 22-5-1995

(Together with her next answer Jenny Soup sent me her new poetry-booklet Sorrow's Velvet Garden, Corridors of Madness Publishers, Studio City, CA, USA.)

JS: I couldn't do justice in talking about all the wonderful ideas that spawned from the mail art medium and from my personal history in corresponding with many great artists.Though justice will not be served.... I will relay a few. When I first started receiving mail art, I took great notice, not only in what was within the envelopes I received, but also the envelopes themselves. This sparked a passion in me, and for a few years, I adorned envelopes with the greatest of time and care. Maybe a simple "hello" would be written on a slip of paper within, but the real Art lay on the envelope itself. I would spend hours on one envelope, collaging, painting and fully decorating each piece. It was a real joy. Now I don't find the same pleasure in doing the Art on the envelopes, though occasionally I will succumb to the urge to do so. The past envelope decorating, eventually led to my color collage Artwork, which has been shown in Galleries here in Los Angeles, the East Coast, and Germany. And along the same lines, the color collages led to my creating full size oil paintings of the same images. How beautiful the lines of progression.

Now, I find the greatest of pleasure in the letter writing, and the written correspondence among those in the network.Though this limits the number of people I correspond with. I enjoy it so much and it adds immeasurably to my life. It is through the letter writing that I enjoy sharing and receiving personal ideas from artists around the world. Within the last couple of years, I have had the most wonderful of opportunities to meet a few of those people, including yourself Ruud, which I find a great pleasure and it adds to the depth of all the correspondence with such people.

Another example would be in the realm of "Projects". Through the mail I have seen and heard of so many different projects, some fascinating, some very simple, yet all have the possibility of influencing an idea I may have at the time.Sometimes it can help solve a problem, or be a catalyst to take an art piece to another level. A wonderful part of all this has been the introduction to a combined effort in a single idea. A great influence are the "Mail Art Shows", in how many people contribute to one thing. The collaboration effort is a glorious thing. One singular person does not take all the credit, or a "First Place" of sorts. Each contributor is as important as the other.

When I started my Poetry and Art Magazine "in remembrance", I incorporated this idea; to have others contribute to the Magazine, that it wasn't all one person, that it was the efforts and talents of many that would make it so successful.

I hope I have conveyed a few examples of how much mail art has effected (infected) my life, and how ideas have formed and grown through this medium.

RJ: Could you tell a bit more about your magazine "in remembrance". When did you start it? How do you select the work you include in your magazine?

Reply on 27-6-1995

JS: I started my magazine "in remembrance" while in San Francisco. It was around 1987 & at the time, in art school, I was working on extremely large paintings, more like tapestries. These paintings took a lot of time, energy and materials. The work was physically and mentally exhausting to complete. The paintings involved a heavy use of collage and different textures, and each one incorporated the use of language. Through, and because of these paintings, "in remembrance" evolved. My magazine became a small, simple way to express the same ideas as in my paintings. These ideas could then reach more people because of the accessability through the mail, which I was discovering through the mail art network.

I have always enjoyed Poetry and language. Ever since I was a young child, I can remember writing poems and short stories.The enjoyment from writing and from reading other works has been a large part of my life, always. I carried this love into my magazine. As the magazine reached more people, in turn, more people would write to me about it. They would send in their work, poems, art, ideas and comments on what they thought of the magazine. All of this helped shape the magazine and helped it to evolve.

I took into consideration all of the submissions I received for "in remembrance". I included those which personally affected me, those which emotionally moved me. In this selection process, a family started. The result of this "family", was a group of artists who shared the same "visions" and thoughts as I and as I achieved in "in remembrance". The magazine has the feel of haunting beauty. It researches the loveliness that is found in many different areas, by many different means. Many of the works I receive by mail, don't fit the themes, or feel of "in remembrance", and it is hard to turn down these works. Just because they don't fit in the realm of "in remembrance", does not mean they are not strong pieces. Because I choose not to use them doesn't mean they are not good, or worthy of being published. But that is the job of an editor. To choose what completes and complements the original intentions of the project. It's not always easy, but it is necessary. I want to keep "in remembrance" true to itself, and this is the only way to do that.

RJ: How large is the network you have discovered so far?

Reply on 6-8-1995

JS: The full size of my correspondence is in the hundreds, though it's not a completely consistent network. There will be steady lines of communication for a period of time, and then months without. This depends on factors in my life whoever I am writing to/with. Sometimes I've been wrapped up in a project that will take me out of circulation for months! Same with the other person(s). When I was in Europe last year, though I kept writing to close friends, when I returned 5 months later I had a box full of mail with many letters saying, "where are you? Why haven't we heard from you?". Or sometimes, even years later, I'll receive a letter from someone I lost contact with, and they'll have written about what kept them out of circulation for so long. My network also changes and reforms itself. People send me artwork and write, its all so ephemeral. I doubt I would ever have the energy to accumulate and organize all the addresses of people I've corresponded with over the years. All of it is stored in boxes and boxes.

I do enjoy the variety of the experience of correspondence, though. That I can have contact with a network of people around the world, is truly an exciting realization.

RJ: Is there a difference in the mail-art here in Europe and in the USA?

Reply on 33-8-95

JS: I think there is a difference in art of all senses, in Europe than in the USA. There is a greater involvement and respect for art, in Europe. Children are raised to believe there is an importance of art in daily living, they are surrounded by it. Or so I observed,in my travels through Europe and during my stay in Paris for 5 months. I was delighted to see very young children in the museums, drawing on paper, on the floor, from great masterpieces of Picasso, Matisse, and others. Art seems to be everywhere in Europe.From money to stamps to phonecards, to bus stops, murals, galleries, great gardens and architecture. As an artist, I can see the beauty of much of America, but it is very different.There is less of a general social appreciation for 'art'.

As far as mail art goes. I believe there is such a connection in the network, that any differences fade. Sometimes it seems that European mail artists are much more consistent in their correspondence. Not that us Americans are "flakes" per se, or are we? Just kidding. I feel the mail art network, at least the core of folks I correspond with, are of the same breed, that we all find each other because we are different from everyone else.

RJ: I know you sometimes do work with a computer. Do you also use it for your art? And for communication?

Reply on 26-9-1995

JS: I use my computer for many things. It's for letters, poetry, writing and artwork. Though in my artwork, I am still very "hands-on." I will use the computer to outline a design or for exact measurements in boxes/lines/type, but for the rest, I love to draw by hand. I'll take what I started on the computer and finish the drawing with ink, pencil, paint, whatever. And with my paintings, I never use the computer for anything! The image goes from my mind straight to the canvas - no "middle man"!

I do enjoy the computer, don't get me wrong, and I see wonderful artwork come from such electronic means. But I still respect the "old-fashioned" method when I see art that's been drawn/painted by hand, I feel there's a more "human" aspect to it. Same with letters but when it is hand written, there's more of a connection with the person, the human-ness of the act of writing.

I think computers have separated us from much of our "human-ness" of our relationship with "nature", and lean us toward the "artificial". In no way do I believe computers are "bad" or technology is "evil", but there is a good balance between science & nature if we keep our heads together.

Computers are a marvel, they're fabulous, and I see a lot of potential for their use, beyond what we have now. But for now, I'll just use mine as I do for work & play. And I will still be in awe at the work of a human hand, whether it be digging in the dirt of a garden or a child finger-painting, or a drawing of Mary Cassatt, or a surgeon at work, or someone typing at a computer.

RJ: Where do you find your inspiration for your art?

Reply on 10-11-1995

(With her new answer Jenny Soup included a set of 4 photo's of her paintings and also an announcement of her newest "in remembrance #14 which is ready and can be ordered)

JS: The word "inspiration" is so fleeting & ephemeral, to me. I try to find ideas for my artwork, in a multitude of places. Most of my paintings are done out of necessity to create. Of course, many of my ideas first come from my head, from memory or fantasy & go directly to canvas. Sometimes I look through old photographs to get ideas & some image will jump out at me.

I am not a consistent painter. I lack discipline in this sense. I think much of painting is this discipline... combined with "inspiration". I will go through periods where I'll paint for weeks straight, one painting after another, and then months of nothing at all!

I believe that everything is worth painting. From a piece of fruit, to the human face, to flowers, fantasy or everyday life. It all "inspires" me to create, yet I'll paint whatever I feel "in the mood" to paint!

RJ: Lets go back to the mail art. Globally there are two different attitudes towards the mail art people get. Some want to keep everything and start to create their own "archive" while others rather like to pass on the things they receive and recycle most of the things the get from the network. What do you do?

Continue with Interview . . .

Mail-artist: Jenny Soup, P.O.Box 1168-584, Studio City, CA 91604, USA

Interviewer: Ruud Janssen - TAM, P.O.Box 1055, 4801 BB Breda, NETHERLANDS

E-mail Ruud Janssen

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