To start off the RML mail art exchange, Elaine Rounds’s beautiful Reading the Landscape pamphlet seems perfect. Even though this item has been sitting on my artistbook shelf since 2009, it will still be considered the first piece in this new project (11 years later!). It is not about migration, but that will be forgiven because it relates so closely to RML (in format) and reflects Elaine Rounds’s inspiring practice of mail art overall.
The pamphlet documents a 2009 mail art project that Rounds hosted as a memorial to her (and my) mail art correspondent, Marilyn Dammann of Michigan. Photos of the pieced that resulted from the Reading the Landscape call are interspersed with quotes that Rounds must have collected during the project. For instance, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) is credited for this: “Reading is seeing by proxy.” And, I enjoyed this one, “Read in Spring | Read in Summer | Read in Autumn | Read in Winter – Quote found in Iceland”.
Reading the Landscape seemed to have generated a lot of reflection on the active nature of reading, and the active reading that is part of our relationship to nature. RML has similarly focused on migration as topic for active and linguistic responses, by way of creative methods –reading and making, in particular.
Marilyn and I never met in person. We often exchanged artist books in the mail and I kept all of her nature-based art and beautifully written letters in a special wooden box. When she passed away in 2005, I decided I would keep her spirit and memory alive by putting out a call to my network of mail art friends asking for books on the theme of ‘Reading the Landspace’. Responses came from more than 100 artists from 24 countries. These books in seven languages express literal and conceptual interpretations of urban and rural landscapes. Some artists who had directly corresponded with Marilyn in the past wrote poetry and produced works in her honour…”
Reading the Landscape is very similar in form to a number of RML books. Like Tierra y Libertad, zarf (containers), Repetition, Paisanos and Migration Pattern the pamphlet is constructed using the flutter book fold technique with a long cut to make it unfurl like an accordion book. After the centre-fold it has an 8-page signature sewn in. The sewn-in signature holds a black and white table of names and addresses of the participants. The pages are full colour with panels cleverly tipped onto the front and back as a way of making the covers sturdier.
Yesterday, Elaine also sent me another packet of mail art, this time for my birthday. It included a small blue book and birthday card, each with artist trading cards (ATCs) reproduced as illustrations. She notes in the folded letter, “I always end up making more ATCs even when I think I should move on.” Everything in the entire packet is so beautifully designed, in that Elaine Rounds way… like a mood board, beyond all mood boards.
I especially love the paper dress ATC, which I think she made by folding a magazine clipping.
Thank you, Elaine, for such a beautiful gift… a couple of RML books are headed your way. Watch the mail!