Saturday, December 26, 2009

PEACE 2009

Two artistamps close 2009 with the theme of Peace. The stamp in the horizontal format is an update of a typographic design created in 2006. It shares the background color and Cascadia Artpost font with a second stamp in vertical format portraying the sockmonkey LoJack, dressed in a tunic decorated with peace emblems. Sockmonkeys are a popular folk art in parts of the United States that dates from the 1930's, made from socks stuffed in the image of a monkey. The most common sock is the red-heeled "Rockford" work sock manufactured by Fox River Mills (which bought out the former manufacturer, the Nelson Knitting Company) in Rockford, Illinois. The red heel gives the sockmonkey its distinctive red lips.


The first black-and-white FluXus artistamp originated from a design by Wolfgang Feelisch in 1974 that was used by Ken Friedman in mail art exchanges, according to Chuck Welch's Eternal Network, A Mail Art Anthology (University of Calgary Press, 1995). The logo was quickly adapted and spread in the mail art network. Friedman used Feelisch's design along with an emblem for Fluxus Zone West by Joseph Beuys in a 1974 artistamp commemorative, and both designs were later copied for a Fluxus Postal Kit.

In this tradition, Cascadia Artpost produced its Fluxus Seattle artistamp in November 2009. Also designed and printed was a similar Fluxus Bellingham stamp for Rudi Rubberoid in Bellingham, Washington to facilitate exchanges in the Cascadia network.

Both the 1974 Fluxus West stamp and the Fluxus Seattle stamp are illustrated above.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Highly recommended by Cascadia Artpost for the bookshelf of every mail art creator or anyone curious about artistamps and postal art is a new softcover book by San Francisco artists Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee Gilligan Wheeler, Good Mail Day (Quarry Books, 2009, $19.95 U.S.).

Filled with how-to pointers and abundantly illustrated, Good Mail Day brings together a lot of information in one place about mail art. The book's chapters cover topics such as:

  • Getting started with mail art

  • How to put together a traveling mail art kit

  • Drawing ideas and raw materials from the environment around us

  • How to make and illustrate envelopes

  • Working with paper

  • Postal experiments

  • Creating artistamps

  • Developing one's postal personality

  • Mail art projects and networking

As added inspiration, bound with the book in the back are some blank postcards and postal stickers.

For more information, see the website The artists also have a website for their Podpost at


The Fluxus movement - the word "Fluxus" means literally "to flow" - creates art directly from the world and invites the audience to participate directly in perception, cognition, and creation.

This second Fluxus commemoration by Cascadia Artpost was released on a "Fluxus Card" designed from an arithmetic flash card originally intended as a teaching tool for math lessons in grade school. The flash card was part of a set discovered in an antiques store in Edmonds, Washington in January 2009. The bendable figure shown on the artistamp is shown in an evening pose striding through some postcard trimmings on the Cascadia Artpost layout table.


Weather in the western portions of Cascadia (British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington) west of the Cascade mountain crest follows a distinctive annual pattern. Three-quarters of the precipitation falls in the six wettest months of the year, from the month of October through the month of March. Most of the time, proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the barrier of the Cascades shield Cascadia from frigid winter temperatures. Precipitation falls as rain in the lowlands and as snow above 3,000 feet elevation. Summers in Cascadia are very dry, matching the time when days are longest. Winters are exceptionally dark here much of the time as a consequence of heavy cloud cover and short daylight of the northern latitude, with briefing clearings marked by angular light. The tradoff of living in Cascadia is the very dry summer of long beautiful days.

An excellent illustrated survey explaining the weather of Cascadia is The Weather of the Pacific Northwest (University of Washington Press, 2008) by Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and a frequent guest on local public radio station KUOW.

The break from summer is usually marked by an early storm, which can occur any time between early September and early October. This year, such a stormy period occurred on September 6-7. Cascadia Artpost tried to capture the essence of what we call the "Stormy Season" through a photo of stormy afternoon cumulus clouds boiling over Seattle, Washington.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


The culture of the United States has been described by some as a "car culture." Unique in the world, the transportation infrastructure and urban form of the U.S.A. since the early 20th century has overwhelmingly been developed around a single mode, the private automobile. Owning and driving one's own car is a preoccupation of most teenagers here as a declaration of independence. In most metropolitan areas of the U.S., only 10% of all households do not have at least one car available. Advertising to induce new car purchases is incessant on commercial television. Dependence upon the car for individualistic mobility by most Americans is a given. The most popular weekly program on National Public Radio stations is a show called "Car Talk." So embedded is the automobile in the American psyche, one could characterize many Americans as car crazy.
Some people do not take their automobiles quite so seriously. They decorate their cars in imaginative color schemes and designs, sometimes affix figurines or toys to the bodies or dashboard, and often modify the original body into diverse forms such as a dragon, a telephone receiver, or a power boat. In 1974, a countercultural performance group named Ant Farm buried a set of big-finned Cadillacs nose-down in a field along Route 66 near Amarillo, Texas as a statement mocking "car culture." Nowadays, art cars do not seem so exceptional, but they still attract attention and comment. In the traffic congestion so prevalent in Seattle, it is always fun to see an art car on the street.
Cascadia Artpost honors the appearance of the art car in American life in the issuance of a sheet of 50 artistamps (only eight are shown here). The images appearing on the stamps were taken at the art car show held during the June 2008 Fremont Street Fair (Fremont is a city neighborhood in Seattle adjacent to the Ballard neighborhood that is the home of Cascadia Artpost), plus the Honda art car in the process of creation by my spouse. May you too enjoy these mobile images of artistic expression.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Several years ago, while waiting at a bus stop across our city in the West Seattle neighborhood, we were simultaneously fascinated and shocked to see a large sign on the side of the American Legion Hall reading, “God Bless Our Troops, Thanks for Protecting the World.” A week later, we returned with a camera to document the sign. The sign is still there.

Shocked because of the blatancy of the expression of American exceptionalism, the underlying assumption being that the United States has a moral and divinely sanctioned right to occupy the world with over 700 military bases on the pretext of protecting the world’s peoples against… what, exactly?

Fascinated because so seldom do most Americans question why the United States has a larger military budget than the next 25 countries combined, or see this global military presence as anything other than a natural extension of military bases in Alaska and Hawaii, let alone as the enforcer of a global empire. The great American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr criticized “our dreams for managing history” as doomed to failure. Andrew Bacevich, in his 2008 book The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism, cites a widespread sense of entitlement for maintaining the American way for life, founded on material consumption and individual autonomy. The sorrow is the futility of this pursuit: militarily impossible, politically threatening to democratic institutions, and economically untenable. Yet, to question these premises is to be exiled outside the boundaries of allowable political discourse in the United States. What political commentator Tom Englehardt calls “the language of empire” works to undermine any attempt at discourse.

However, reality is conspiring to erode the ability of American political elites to continue the course. The global economic crisis and the disappearance of trillions of dollars of wealth are raising the specter of national financial ruin and accelerated economic decline.

Can we begin to see the world and define our own possibilities differently? The first step is to truly see differently what we so easily have taken for granted. In believing we are capable of doing so lies hope. That’s what this artistamp seeks to do.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

S P R I N G 2009

It is the spring season in Seattle, though in many respects April still seems like Winter In America. Seattle's weather has been five to ten degrees cooler than the average, with snow falling this past week on the morning of the second day of April. The economy of the United States continues to contract, with official unemployment climbing to 8.5% and General Motors teetering less than two months away from probable bankrupcy. Activities on the street seem to be going on as before, yet daily conversations tend to veer toward some topic of worry and concern.

But pay attention - there is still beauty to note in the world. Here in Cascadia, the Pacific Northwest region of North America in the Northern Hemisphere, the cherry tries are beginning their bloom, bulbs are poking out of the ground and breaking out in colorful flowers, and the days grow longer.

Cascadia Artpost commemorates this season by reproducing four scenes photographed from past springs. The two pictures of tulips were photographed in 2005 on the street outside my apartment. One year ago, I was walking with my camera down the street of our current residence in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle (often I take a camera with me to document the environs as I walk) and noticed the childrens' chalk drawing on the pavement. Walking farther and crossing the street, I couldn't help but notice the accumulated flower petals in the gutter.

Seeing and perceiving shape our daily outlook on life. The Cascadian poet William Stafford (1914-1993) once wrote a poem about this:

Seeing and Perceiving

You learn to like the scene that everything

in passing loans to you - a crooked tree

syncopated upward branch by pre-

established branch, its pattern suddening

as you study it; or a piece of string

forwarding itself, that straight knot so free

you puzzle slowly at its form (you see

intricate but fail at simple); or a wing,

the lost birds trailing home.

These random pieces begin to dance at night

or when you look away. You cling to them

for form, the only way that it will come

to the fallible: little bits of light

reflected by the sympathy of sight.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


(1926 – 2008)

We were generally aware of the Fluxus movement during our university years in the 1960’s, through the music of John Cage and the works of artists like Claes Oldenberg. The name George Brecht only registered in our memory because his last name was easy to associate with the German playright Bertolt Brecht. Mr. Brecht, born George MacDiarmid, changed his last name while a soldier in the U.S. Army in Germany around 1945, because he liked the way Brecht sounded.

George Brecht again came to our attention in 2001 when we were delving into the history of artistamps and mail-art. The Fluxus movement – the word “Fluxus” means literally, “to flow” – created art directly from the world and invited the audience to participate directly in perception, cognition, and creation. Postal art and communication publicly through the international postal system became one expression of Fluxus, documented by Chuck Welch’s Eternal Network, A Mail Art Anthology (University of Calgary Press, 1995).

Although Brecht did produce some rubber stamps, we are not aware that he ever created any artistamps. Nonetheless, as a transportation planner we were fascinated with one of Brecht’s early works, Motor Vehicle Sundown (Event) to John Cage (1959), involving a gathering of a large number of disparate motor vehicles in a public space. As part of a retrospective of George Brecht’s work in September 2005, Museum Ludwig in Brecht’s hometown of Köln, Germany held a reenactment of Motor Vehicle Sundown in Köln’s central cathedral square with the artist present and directing traffic, so to speak. An eyewitness, Anna Dezeuze, described the experience:

“A crowd gathered, attracted by the unexpected grouping, but wandered rather aimlessly as the drivers of each vehicle performed such mundane activities as blowing horns, opening and closing doors, operating windscreen wipers and switching headlights on and off: there was no apparent order, no climax, no clear beginning or end. This was one of Brecht’s more Cagean works, and the simultaneity of the actions and large-scale organisation required to stage the performance are uncharacteristic of Brecht’s later, more minimal, work, but the deliberate sense of uncertainty is certainly one of Brecht’s most radical achievements.”
(Excerpted from Anna Dezeuze, “Brecht for beginners,” Papers of Surrealism, Issue 4, Winter 2005)

In Brecht’s own words, his art was a means of “ensuring that the details of everyday life, the random constellations of objects that surround us, stop going unnoticed.”

Brecht left the United States in 1965. After settling in Köln in 1972, he maintained a low profile until the Museum Ludwig’s George Brecht “Heterospective” in 2005 (the exhibition subsequently was moved in 2006 to Barcelona’s MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona).

George Brecht died on December 5, 2008 in Köln. Cascadia Artpost honors Brecht’s life and work with a pair of artistamps. The orange posterization is based on a 1960 photo of Brecht taken by Scott Hyde, while the blue posterization features a scene with the artist at Museum Ludwig’s 2005 Heterospective, from a photo taken at the event by Pietro Pellini.

A note about the Fluxus postcard:

On a trip to an antiques store with spouse and a friend in early January, we made the unexpected finds of a set of arithmetic flash cards and game cards with an interesting arrow in a “shock wave” pattern. Turned on their sides, the flash cards become something more than mathematical functions. These found objects immediately became appropriate subjects for a Fluxus postcard. We’d like to think that George Brecht would have noticed.


A Postcard in Memory of Donald Evans
~ Robert Farnsworth, The Missouri Review (Vol. 11, No.1, 1988)

Walking past a boatyard full of cradled sloops

last night, I thought of you. Yellow portholes

yielded the shoulders of somebody doing delicate

work, floating perhaps, above a coast he hopes

he will explore, or stilting his compass across

the pale deeps. Three just-varnished blocks

beaded a rope across the cockpit. In the flat

surrounding fields, luminous local vegetables

hide beneath dark leaves, and on the pier at

evening, thousands of red-needled sea urchins,

swung from a trawler's hold, pour loudly

into a truck. But the stolid, mumbling, upwind

flight of the blimp each morning most brings

you to mind - outward bound for Nadorp,

Iles des Sourds, Mangiare. Most of your countries

had just achieved independence, or had steadily

reclaimed themselves from cold ocean and sky.

They linger at the margins of our maps.

Cancelled on yellowed envelopes, or fixed

like stars to black collector sheets, tinctured

in the watercolor you said could not be labored,

their stamps commemorate our love of minor

beauties, perishable things. In the full panes

of your exotic issues, made of tiny, certain strokes

and pastel fogs, I recognize myself, the boy

who wanted everything arrayed, passed through

imagination's tender lens, orderly as the leaded

green and mustard meadows tilting on a wingtip,

where long archipelagos of shadows slowly drift.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


The Cascadia Artpost commemoration of Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States brings together two iconic images to capture the contradictory impulses of the moment. In the background is a portion of the pop poster portrait of Obama drawn by Los Angeles street artist Shepard Fairey. Fairey’s image, variously captioned with “HOPE” and later “PROGRESS,” has spawned a number of parodies of other political and cultural figures, but nonetheless has become one of the icons of the 2008 political landscape. In the foreground, we overlaid our own drawing inspired by Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” drawn in various versions by Munch between 1893 and 1910. Munch’s expressive image of manic anxiety captures perfectly the obverse popular mood in the face of dismal economic news and the global disarray of 21st century capitalism.

If the juxtaposition of these two contrasting images seems ambiguous, well, it is. Our suffering foreground image, drawn in an 8-inch by 10-inch size with color felt-tip and black drawing pens, has been portrayed in a cloak of white stars against a blue field, with two other watchful blue figures in the background. He/she is struggling with hands over ears to cope. Meanwhile, the steely centeredness of Obama’s image rises in the background. We have to admit that the feeling when we first combined the two images was pretty creepy. That’s one possible reaction. But an alternative response might be a possible tempering of the foreground panic by the reassuring solidity of the Obama image rising in the background.

Although originally prepared for an Inauguration Day (January 20th) exchange, the artistamp was mailed to a much wider list on a postcard satirizing a historic advertisement offering a free savings bank with the purchase of a toaster. A friend sent us the original image with the satirical coupons, which we modified to call attention to the TARP (the shabby acronym standing for Troubled Assets Relief Program) bailout of overextended banks and failing U.S. automakers using public funds (or, more accurately, public borrowing).

Our intent was not to saddle Obama with blame for TARP, but only to recognize the prior confining commitments (symbolized by a rubber-stamped vise) in place when Obama has taken office. Powerful financial and corporate interests are lobbying for continuing government financial support, while laying off thousands of workers as the unemployment rate climbs steadily toward 10 percent. Whether the Obama Inauguration may truly mark the beginning of a more hopeful era will depend on how well the rest of us lobby our own interests and the reaction to those efforts.