Monday, November 15, 2004

Why Printed Matters

What surprises, I wonder, are not hidden within the archives of Roy Arenella's home and mind?

Today, I received from him a large photocard (# 454 p/c) mailed on Veterans Day (11 Nov 2004). In the note, Roy begins by mentioning that he "hadn't realized that David Cole [the visual poet] was on Sackner's collectible list" (which is a sideways reference to a recent blog posting of mine over at dbqp). He goes on to say that he visited a quasi-retrospective of Cole's at the Montclair State University gallery a month after the man's death.

All of this reminded me that I had received only one piece of mail from Cole in my life. Cole had initiated the correspondence, and he sent a gracious introductory letter and wonderful envelope decorated in his signature stenciled style. Yet I never responded. I'm sure this arrived during the Great Darkness, those many years when I retreated from art in favor of my paying job. A great loss, the loss of a connection, but there are many others I've experienced, too many to go into here and too sad to consider.

Roy goes on to say that this card of his is a thank-you for my essay "Collards and Poetry," and for my appreciation of the rarer Royvelope.

I read this card, appreciating the fact that the pseudo-cancellation mark was filled with a stamping of a wooden device, somewhat like a wheatstalk in form, that Roy had found "in a spring flower-bed outside the gallery, at David's Montclair show." The card is finished with a 37-cent showing a cirrostratus fibratus cloud formation, a wonderful halo-like form I remember seeing only once—at Mapps College in Barbados—and an artist's stamp (I assume) of W.C. Fields. I'm not sure why W.C. is there, save that his stamp is a similar blue of the cloud stamp, but since this is a card from Roy I know there's some reason for it.

Then I turned over the card, and I was blown away. An unexpected gift: a journalistic shot of three little-known artists in the process of moving, all a smidgen out of focus—a shot taken on the run. From the left we see the famed mailartist (and rubberstamp-printing-set collector) Picasso Gaglione, the visual poet Marilyn Rosenberg, and David Cole himself! I'd never seen a picture of any of these people before, and their corporeal shapes surprised me. I never expect artists to be old. If their work seems young, my mind-picture of them is of young vibrant people. Instead, we have three maybe-sixtyish people, wrapped up to shelter themselves from the cold, but full of life. Picasso and David shake hands vigorously, and their manual embrace reaches across the face of the entire picture, holding everything together.


Roy Arenella, "Bay Area Dada" (15 Jan 1999)

un violon d'ingres

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