I used to be a visual artist.

I started with photography, worked it for years and eventually found it static. I started altering the images with oil paints and stacking negatives. That still wasn't interesting but I learned process, showed my work and sold it. One of my images even appeared on the cover of the old St. Louis Home magazine.

Then I started painting.
That was interesting for about a year until the work evolved into my favored medium, assemblage. Three dimensional work that hung on a wall and aspired to the condition of sculpture. I still used paint but it was incidental to the piece.

I showed, it sold. It was easy.

It was easy because I was employed with a Real Job working for the Patriarchy. I felt like a spy. In it but not of it, I learned much while not taking it seriously for a moment. I just wasn't (to the annoyance of my coworkers and supervisors) on a 'career track.'

At night I painted in my studio and published an arts magazine VELOCITY that evolved out of the mail art scene I was involved in.

In 1980 I heard about Mark Pauline who lives and works in San Francisco from an artist in St. Louis. You may want to meet and interview this guy, he told me. I agreed.

I went to SF, meet, hung out with and interviewed Mark Pauline and Matt Heckert of Survival Research Laboratories. I also met Mark's girlfriend at the time, Andrea Juno of RE/SEARCH who was living in North Beach with Vale. I saw their book on J.G. Ballard as a galley flat before it was sent to their publisher.

I hunted down writer Peter Plate in SF and did the first ever interview with him (published in Red Bass). When I met Peter he was squatting in the Mission and self publishing his books. Now he writes for the SF Chronicle and has a book publisher!

I've met the people you've read about in books - David Bryne.

I designed a line of hats in the late 70's Hat Attacks, created a line of three dimensional postcards Card Sharks, designed and sold clothing as well as luggage Know Where Fast. I also designed jewelry and had sales reps working for me.

I did all this while working for the Patriarchy.

For the last ten years I've been self-employed.
For the last ten years I haven't created a piece of art.

I see it though. I see what I want to be creating when I look closely at the surface of these bricks. I now understand my attraction to the details of face brick, it looks like the work I had been doing. I've been documenting a part of me that I've neglected.
I see it here:


And here

Here's a photo of the last piece I made. See the resemblance to brick? I do. (I know, very dark photo)

I also see the resemblance in the work of the abstract expressionist paintings - in the loose brushwork of Franz Kline's bold and graphic lines, I know he's been sucking on the marrow of brick.

I know this.

* * * * *

Recently an old art crony, Leslie Caldera, reestablished contact with me from Whittier CA. via my friend Pat Fish. I had met them both through VELOCITY magazine, they had both been contributors.

Leslie Caldera (or, Creative Thing as he's known in the Art World or Lesel as I call him) mailed me a copy of a gig poster he had designed for a show that used one of my old photo montages of my bike wheel.

Lesel is an assemblage artist. He has a Real Job as a graphic designer and makes art when he's not working or riding his bike. He has beautifully refined sensibilities and whenever I see a piece of his work I experience everything that I love about art: light, value, rhythm and grace.

I miss being a part of that, I miss that part of me.

Being self-employed means I get to work in my garden at my whim, be a stay-at-home dog Mom and spend a lot of time volunteering on projects in my neighborhood because they are gratifying -- just like making art always was.

Seeing that old photo montage that Lesel sent made me feel guilty. I'm no longer the woman he used to know.

I pulled out an old binder of mail art filled with his drawings on the envelopes of letters and postcards that he had mailed to me.

Some of Lesel's old work:

Lesel mailed this handmade postcard for my 33 year birthday 21 years ago.

Handmade Valentine post card.

Lesel's current work. Dark Century.

Lesel just emailed me today with this link: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=45130516&blogID=306144930
It's a set of stamps he designed for the L.A. band, X.
Want to buy a sheet? Contact him: lesliecaldera@sbcglobal.net

Another connection with Lesel is Joel-Peter Witkin. I first saw Joel's work in the mid 80's, his first book had been published and was at Left Bank Books. His work was profoundly upsetting and intriguing. Lesel knew of my interest in Joel's work and mailed a pile of articles and reviews about Joel's show he recently open in L.A.

I stayed up late reading the materials and that night dreamed about a flat rock that was skipping across a lake, never breaking the surface, never reaching the other side.

I went to to my Patriarchy job the next day thoroughly depressed about the dream and it wasn't until 4 that afternoon I understood it. I was the rock! The dream was about the validity of my art work in comparison to Joel's because his work demanded a reaction.

Once home, I began reading more. I read that Joel lived in Albuquerque with his wife, Cynthia (who was a tattoo artist and Navaho / Mexican) and a woman named Barbara.

I couldn't believe it! I had always wanted to be tattooed by a Navajo woman who lived in the desert. I picked up the phone next to me, called Albuquerque 411 and discovered Joel was listed. Within a minute, I was speaking to their son, asking to talk to Cynthia.

I realize you're going to think this is odd but I've just read this article that says you're Navajo and that you tattoo ... would you consider tattooing someone you've never met and who is calling you like some stalker?

Months later, she tattooed my back at their home in Albuquerque. It took two days, a total of nine hours.

This is a poor copy of a photo that Joel took of me sitting with Cynthia on the porch of their ranch.

Sitting with Joel

What became of mail art? Years ago one could mail ANYTHING through the post office as long as it had the proper postage amount. The Uni bomber ruined it for everyone.

Some more photos of mail art pieces in my binder.

Tile post card from a friend who had just covered his kitchen floor and used this scrap as a postcard.

From my friend Armin Paetzold (when I moved back to STL)

Large postcard from Armin torn from a cardboard box.

I decided it may be time to go back to working for The Patriarchy. I broke the news to my friend Lisa who shouted NO!!!

This should be interesting.

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