"Artistamps on mail art is a BEAUTY!" - E.F Higgins, III

Ruud Janssen with E.F. Higgins, III

TAM Mail-Interview Project

(WWW Version)

Started on: 16-05-1995

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

Reply on: 15-9-95

EFH: Thanks for the invite to the interview. I haven't been doing muchinternational mail art for a number of years, due to the postal rates, & Iwas spending US$ 700 a year on postage there for a while. To answer yourquestion, I got involved in the mail art network about 1975-'76. At theUniversity of Colorado, I was working with paintings & printmaking,working from "2-D" objects as my models. Posters, Postcards, Play money,Stamps, envelopes, etc. I produced the first sheet of Doo Da art stamps in1975. Right around that time a visiting artist. Edwin Golik Golikoff, aN.Y. Artist, living in Denver, told me about mail art, Buster Cleveland,Ray Johnson, Anna Banana, etc. I started mailing the stamps, collages etc.around then.

RJ: What were the first reactions of the people you started to mail yourworks to?

Reply on 5-10-1995

EFH: That would be hard to figure, as I wasn't there, when they got theirmail. Mail art is neither a wrapped gift to a friend at their birthday Party,nor a Rauschenburg, in a show, in a Museum, in a collection, reproducedin an Art Business Magazine, commented about by "Art Critics" etc. etc.

Judging from the responses, from other artists, through the mails, some ofmy stuff must have interested some to respond. The many different mailartists' correspondences revealed the miraid various influences affectingthese artists. Golikoff used a typewriter, & puns in many of his letters &postcards. Ray Johnson, his gray copies of drawings, gossip, & puns. Hissurreal puns, sometimes understood. Concrete poetry, newspaper &picture collage, pornography, manifestos, self-documentation, self-historification, self-promotion, were some of the things sent, received, &seen in mail art show catalogues.

One of these things were stamps; on the letters from real countries, artistsstamps, & rubber stamps. Due to my background interest, I gravitated tocorresponding, with these concerns, to other artists & shows having this asa format or main idea. The 1974 Show of Artist Stamps at Simon FraserUniversity, B.C., Canada, organized by Jas. W. Felter, visually introducedme to the world of the following artists from that show: Pat Tavenner, JoelSmith, Donald Evans, Ken Friedman, Robert Watts, Bernd Lobach, EndreTot, Klaus Burkhardt, Carl Camu, Dieter Roth, George Ashley, & EdVarney of the Coach House Press.

I was a painter & printmaker, and carried these disciplines into my mail artactivity, most notably, Painting Doo Da Stamps. Often these 16" x 18"paintings were photographically reduced, and printed as sheets of stampswith the color copier, perforated, & used in mail art. As a printmaker inthe traditional methods, the color copier was an explosive discovery to me.No longer did time & money restricted the imagery, edition, distributionetc. To spend 2 hours each pulling an edition of Etchings, tends todiscourage mailing off a dozen or so to friends, and push one more into the$ Art Gallery system.

RJ: I can understand the influence of a color copier. Some choose for alarge color copy, but it seems you like to reduce your works to evensmaller pieces, into artistamps. Why is this artistamp so interesting foryou?

Reply on 17-10-1995

EFH: To color copy print from a large un-related artwork, such as apainting, sculpture, etc., as an edition print seems silly except asdocumentation, doing huge injustice to both the original medium & thetraditional printing process. Picasso may have done a series of etchingsbased on his painting "Guernica", but the prints intrinsic method, process,& look, have more to do with these concerns, than reproducing thepainting. He didn't print 300 color copy prints of a photo of the painting.

When Warhol painted a 12 ft. square "Hammer & Sycle", "Deaths Head",or whatever, he probably had a pretty good idea it would "Read" whenreproduced, 4 inches by four inches in some art magazine. HireonimusBosch probably didn't have this thought occur to him... check it out.Photography has changed the making of art, & definitely Art & Business.Wouldn't a 12" x 12" Warhol have sufficed?

When I paint the Doo Da Stamp Paintings, it is understood by me that theyare ment to be used to make stamps. The lettering is there, the 3P or what-ever denomination is there. It isn't, in most cases, added later. Hence, thepainting becomes, what traditionally was known as a rough sketch, i.e., acreative work done in the process to achieve the invisioned final "Work".To delegate painting to this role, "making color copy artistamps", turnstradition on its head, & really pisses off the Art Gallery system.

If creativity, through a process, isn't TRANSFORMED BY THATPROCESS, it is hardly creative in my opinion. A photo, slide, or color copymay be functional, helpful, or useful in describing another artwork, butunless it is transformed, it's work$job.

ARTISTAMPS, like their traditional cousins, "Govn't minted miniatureprints", share significant similarities - the main one being, I think, theimagry on them, i.e. "relating to the people, lands, ideas, nature,accomplishments, celebrations, religions, etc. of the country." Thecorrespondence carried by the regular stamps, becomes thecorrespondence, carried by the Artistamps in mail art, that joyous dance ofthe muses amongst us.

How wonderful to have perhaps correspondanced with a guy from the"country" of Gauguin, Cavellini apparently correspondanced with someamazing "countries" to hear him tell it!!!

What kind of artistamps would a "country" of Picasso have produced?, &my!, wouldn't that have been fun.!!!?

The "COUNTRIES" of TUI-TUI, Blurr, BANANA, TRIANGLE, JOKI, &NETLAND, to name a few, are alive & well!!! By in large, unlike theGovn't issues, these countries have the continuity of one or two creativebeings in charge of the postal issues for many, many years.

If you ever got a letter from someone in a different country, the stamps, &rubber stamp cancellation marks were a wonderful part of getting thatletter. Sometimes their correspondence to you reflected the stampimagery or not. Artistamps on mail art is a BEAUTY!

I have seen wonderful stamps from countries I may never visit - some evenwith that country's art I may never see. With artistamps, the ART VISITSYOU, not you visiting the museum! I am not against travel or museums,actually, I love both, but to have these "COUNTRIES" visit YOU,sometimes unexpectedly, is a treat!!!

P.S. During construction work, that I do to make a living, when somebodyscrews-up, I put two things to them: #1 "There's 4 things you gottaremember if you want to be a plumber:

(1) "H" stands for hot. (2) "C" stands for cold. (3) Friday's payday, (4) & SHIT DON'T RUN UP-HILL.

The other thing I put to them is more insidious. After they've escaped amajor disaster, for themselves, as well as others on the job, I ask 'em,"HEY! WHO PAYS YOU????? & before they can answer, I yell in theirface, "SAFETY PAYS!!!

Not too long ago, here in America, some young kid burned down thehouse, a trailer actually, having learned fire is lighters & fun from somecartoon character named Bevis & Butthead. And now, to legally selllighters here in America, they have to be "Child-Proof". The only swearword or obscenity I ever heard my father utter, in 50 years, was___________, as he was teaching me power tools when I was, .... oh, maybe13 or 14 years old, when he nearly cut off his finger.

RJ: Are there other stories of your childhood that have had an impact onyour the art you produce nowadays?

Reply on 14-11-1995

EFH: Stories? ...?

RJ: Ah...

EFH: Well, there once was a gal from Nantucket...

RJ: Actually, influences.... were there any other significant ...

EFH: Oh, ... you mean like stuff places, & people?

RJ: Yea.

EFH: I suppose, in every ones' life, there's things to remember; if youasked anyone else, they'd say something like, "What?", even if they knewthem very well, when they heard the reply. When I meet people in bars, Itell 'em: "I'm 59 years old." I think I've been doing this for the last 10 yearsor so.

As a youngster, growing up in a small town outside of Chicago, I had thegood luck, or some may say, the "IMPRINTING" (like you see the T.V.show showing you how to have the young condors learn the wild, by eatingraw meat from a puppet hand, that looks like a (they suppose) adult), tolearn many things.

Probably, if anybody's still around, from back then, they'd tell you adifferent story, than what'd you figure from .. say the writings of JulesVerne, Lewis Carrol or Edgar Allen Poe. "So the guy sez to me in a bar inKankakee, Ill., he was out of work or something...., 'apparently this guybreaks into the PICASSO museum ... didn't like a painting, orsumptin',,,,& PAINTS OVER A PART OF IT!!!!!!!..' "so the story goes,";&Picasso himself was in town, or sumptin'....& they get him out there forinsurance purposes, you know, to assertain the damage, & whadda think hesez... you know, after looking at it and all...??? 'I look into the distance,trying to figure what the pablo might have'a said, as I looked him up &down, figuring iz this guy crazy or can he buy me another beer, when hesays something....'

You mean that kind of story?

RJ: What's Picasso say?

EFH: Well, He looked at the "Damage, & pulling at his jaw, said "Not Bad."

RJ: "Did he actually..."

EFH: "Oh, Not that story...... O.K., Hello Buster, to assume a painter,Stamp maker, or what-ever didn't used to have some fun at writing wouldbe to deny Claes Oldenbug & all of Chicago humor.

Here's the thing: Since RJ asked the question about other stories of mychildhood, "that have had an impact... etc....", I have invented his"dialogue" or return questions. I don't have a computer or e-mail....& havebeen corresponding with a young cartoonist that..... He does the drawing.I'll do the story line. Met 'em on the train from ChicaGRANDCENTRAL.

So, If RJ decides to run this part of the interview, please understand, wedidn't just send mail to understand one short word... Sometimes people talklike that. Ruud, my apologies.

Trying not to get side-tracked, on the interview, but it depends on howyou're traveling, & but, anyway, we all gotta stop for eats, piss & ClearStars.

THE ASS HOLE MUST THINK HE'S A WRITER Chapter 2, Hemmings'typist gore $25. Bucks a page (back then)

Well, enough of my....a....ah....., well, anyway, if this is supposed to beabout Artistamps, or mail art, ....here's a reply from Joel Smith, fromIllinois, Illinoise. (One of the best, in my opinion, that makes Art Stamps).

(E.F. Higgins included a copy with a small text about Joel Smith'sArtistamps where is explained shortly how he makes them and motivatedwhy....)

RJ: What do you think is important enough that I should ask you? Don'tstart to think too much, just figure out what you think I should know, andthan give the answer.......

Continue with Interview . . .

Reproduced with the permission of
Further reproduction without the written consent of
Ruud Janssen and the Artist is prohibited.

Mail-artist: Edward F. Higgins III, DOO DA POST, 153 Ludlow, Apt.#6, New York, NY 10002-2229, U.S.A.

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

E-mail Ruud Janssen

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