Painted on Vintage Postcards, Flora and Fauna Celebrate Farming Traditions and Wildlife of the Midwest
Twenty-seven years ago while studying at the University of Illinois, illustrator Diana Sudyka (previously) retrieved a bundle of postcards from a dumpster. The ephemeral correspondence revealed a relationship between farmers and workers from the Harvard area and a man named John Dwyer, either their accountant or investor who lived throughout Chicago, Cicero, and Berwyn. Dated from 1939 to 1942, the short letters generally contained information about livestock sales and farm expenses.
Now based in the Chicago area, Sudyka repurposes the envelopes as canvases for her watercolor and gouache paintings of flora and fauna native to the Midwest. “I have a strong attachment to the envelopes for various reasons, not least of which is that I was born and raised in Illinois, and spent a good deal of time in rural areas of the state,” she shares with Colossal. The penmanship, patina, and markings on the paper all inform her decisions to reflect a particular shrub or beetle duo amongst the remaining postmark and stamp. “I am drawn to the beauty of the handwriting on the envelopes, and the variation in the inks used,” she says, also noting her affinity for the assembled artworks of late artist Joseph Cornell.
Through delicate depictions of squirrels and long-legged herons, the illustrator connects her own experience enjoying the region’s bucolic settings with the decades-old content of the letters. “I often think about the wildlife that I saw as a child in those rural areas, unaware at the time of how much agriculture had already altered the land. And now as an adult, so much of both wildlife and those family farms are gone. The envelope paintings are my homage to both,” she says.
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Finnish artist Riitta Ikonen has a rare relationship with postal services around the globe because of her ongoing Mail Art series. The documentary project started in 2003 when Ikonen was a student at the University of Brighton. She began crafting and sending A6-sized packages relaying her travel experiences to her illustration instructor, Margaret Huber. Since then, Ikonen has sent hundreds of parcels constructed with human hair, fish, and broken bits of a record, among countless other objects. “All the cards are snapshots from the everyday: materials that float my direction from the sea/ streets/ subway, finds from mushroom forays or other people’s parties,” the artist tells Colossal. “Sometimes the postcard is a test on a new adhesive or a snapshot of a larger project that I cannot store in its entirety.”
Despite her unusual packaging, the artist says only a few pieces haven’t reach their destination, although works arrive in various conditions often accompanied by an apology from the mail carrier for the “damage” done.
I have discovered that my crocheting skills aren’t yet at the point where I can produce a legible address and fluff from the dryer breaks down too easily in international mail. Most everything that I have considered risqué (white powder packet during anthrax scare, shrimp, small fish, film camera (filled with selfies by the postal workers on its arrival), acupuncture needles, etc.) have all been dutifully delivered to Margaret Huber’s mailbox.
In 2018, Ikonen began sending the mail pieces weekly, although before they head through the postal service, they’re put on view at a PO Box in Rockaway Beach, New York. The artist also is part of a group exhibition at Gallery 8 in New York that’s open through March 8. If you can’t see Ikonen’s unconventional work in person, though, some of her documentary projects are featured in a book devoted to postcards. You also can follow her on Instagram.
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Patchwork Motifs and Knotted Thread by Francesca Colussi Cramer Add Texture to Vintage Photographs and Postcards
Italian artist Francesca Colussi Cramer started embroidering patterns and grids onto found photographs four years ago when she discovered a small vintage shop down the street from her house in North Wales. She was enthralled with the nostalgic feel of the store’s old images and postcards, and began adding thread to provide a visual and physical contrast to the original work. Some of her additions are abstract, like images which appear like patchwork quilts, while for others she makes more representational choices by layering the real life hues of a location or person in small bursts of color.
“Adding thread on paper alters an existing surface and creates such a rich texture and contrast with the original image itself,” Cramer tells Colossal. “It’s both visual and tactile, and doing it on paper, instead of fabric, comes with challenges and differences that I find more intriguing every day. It is a sort of conversation with the past in the images, like lifting a layer of dust and letting the color through, adding another chapter.”
Cramer still sources her photographs and postcards from the original shop that sparked the project, while also scouring a monthly vintage fair near her home and searching online on Ebay or Etsy. Cramer sells her embroideries on her online shop. You can view the process behind her works by following her on Instagram. (via Lustik)
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