Fort Myers exhibit by Mothersbaugh, Beatie Wolfe
Fancy being in an art exhibit in Fort Myers’ Rauschenberg Gallery? All you need is a stamp, a postcard, and a little creativity.
It is an exhibition inspired by the post office and democracy. But it is also a democratic exhibition: anyone can participate, no matter who they are or where they live.
You don’t even have to be an artist.
“We just wanted it to be as open and inclusive as possible,” says Wolfe, “and that everyone and everyone who wanted to send a card. And whatever that card was, it was awesome.
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The idea was to defend the U.S. Postal Service and its pivotal role in the 2020 Presidential Election. Beatie and Mothersbaugh are long-time Postal Service fans, and friends love to collect stamps and send letters (and often works of art) by mail.
“It kind of inspired us,” says Mothersbaugh. “I think we were impressed when our government started talking about eliminating the post office – which we thought was just an integral part of our democracy and which was very important to keep alive.
The project began as a “collective art demonstration” supporting the US Postal Service, postal voting and the right to vote. But it ended up being much more than that.
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People from all over the world submitted postcards decorated with all kinds of topics: the 2020 election, of course. And the post office. And Trump. And the Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy. But also Black Lives Matter. Human kindness. Racism. Feminism. QAnon. Science. The environment.
And there were other less political topics, too: a one-eyed alien holding his arms for a hug. The floor lamp from “A Christmas Story”. Ape astronaut declaring “I don’t want to go to space!” A sun rising over planet Earth. And lots of Devo-themed art, including the band’s famous “Energy Dome” hats and their slogan, “Aren’t we men? We are Devo! “
More and more submissions are coming in every day, says Mothersbaugh.
“We love the post office and we love what it is about,” he says. “And that (the art project) coincided with what was happening in the country at the time.
“But, you know, there are still things happening today. We have new cards on the table today. And they don’t talk about elections. They talk about other things. … They concern other aspects of human existence.
That’s why gallery director Jade Dellinger plans to change the postcards for the world premiere exhibition. At least twice during the three months of the show, it will remove all the old postcards from their narrow shelves and replace them with a whole new batch.
Dellinger expects people who visit the gallery to be inspired to come home and create their own art, in fact. And these postcards could appear later in the exhibition.
“It’s really an ongoing activity,” he says, “and we encourage people to participate.”
Wolfe and Mothersbaugh say they received bags full of postcards for the exhibit, but have no idea how many they collected. Thousands, they suppose.
“It’s a bunch!” Mothersbaugh said. “Sorry, neither of us wanted to count.”
Today, around 1000 of these postcards are on display at the Rauschenberg Gallery (Dellinger did not count them either).
Wolfe says she is impressed with the creativity on display. The postcards cover a wide spectrum of the human experience and address some of the issues and feelings we have all experienced over the past year.
“It’s almost like this physical time capsule, a time portal in some ways, to what’s going on,” she says. “I think it’s so wonderful that it’s preserved in physical form in a very digital age.
“You look at these maps, and you see so many different facets of our collective human experience and who we are, and I think that’s what’s really powerful about it. It’s like it represents what we’ve been through.
Mothersbaugh and Wolfe say they wanted to do what they could to help something they love: the US Postal Service.
“We just wanted to bring awareness,” Mothersbaugh says. “We didn’t hear anyone speak on behalf of the post office, so we said, ‘Okay, let’s do it!’ Because we had so much to be thankful for.
Dellinger also likes the idea of having the postal services participate in the exhibition.
“You challenge the postal service a bit,” he said. “At the same time, you’re kind of entertaining and grateful to them by allowing them to be artisans.”
The project started last year, but the Fort Myers exhibit will be the first time the postcards will be featured in an art exhibit. The world premiere was born out of Dellinger’s long relationship with Mothersbaugh and Devo, the 2021 Rock n ‘Roll Hall of Fame nominees, best known for their 1980 hit “Whip. “
Dellinger wrote the group’s 2003 biography, “We Are Devo,” and he also worked with Mothersbaugh on an exhibition of his work at the Tampa Museum. They had also talked about doing something for the Rauschenberg Gallery, then “Postcards for Democracy” came along.
Dellinger said he was impressed by the mountains of postcards that poured in after Beatie and Mothersbaugh announced the project last year.
“They were getting thousands of postcards in the mail, and some people would do things daily and send them to them,” Dellinger says. “And a lot of people go to great lengths and make some really smart, really beautiful, really wonderful works of art.
“Sometimes it was a simple message, but often it was a real labor of love given to the mail carriers at the USPS. And of course, everyone loved this idea.
The exhibit features three authentic USPS stamp machines near the entrance to the gallery. For $ 1 per quarter, visitors can purchase an art stamp featuring the exhibit logo and a design by Wolfe and Mothersbaugh.
Then there’s the music Mothersbaugh contributed to the show: seven hours of stream-of-conscience organ music looping through the gallery.
Mothersbaugh – who has a thriving career as a songwriter for television, film, and video games – wrote and performed the song on an old domestic organ. He titled it “The World’s Most Powerful Healing Music”.
The exhibit, he jokes, will do more than just entertain and enlighten visitors. “You can go in and not only see all of these cards, but you can come out healthier on the other end. … I got the first clue when I had a cut on my finger. And while I was playing music, I watched her heal.
Mothersbaugh and Wolfe have no plans to stop the art project anytime soon. They continue to accept postcards and could possibly show the exhibit elsewhere.
They hope this will help their beloved post office and spread their mutual love for the mail – which Wolfe says she has helped her immensely during the pandemic.
“The mail during the lockdown was really the one thing that kept me sane,” she says. “I was just writing tons of letters and sending art to people.”
And a lot of people, it seems, love the mail and the post as much as they do.
“We had no idea he would get such an overwhelming response,” says Wolfe. “I think a big part of the whole project is just the joy of the mail.
“I think a lot of people remembered how wonderful it is to do something and send it. … It’s more than just a means to an end. It brings all that kind of joy.
The exhibit opened on May 17, but it’s not too late to send your artwork through the U.S. Postal Service. In fact, Dellinger is hoping it will happen.
“It’s really a project that can really be opened up,” he says. “It’s really about continuing to participate in this type of ongoing conversation.”
To participate in the exhibit, make a postcard and mail it to 8760 Sunset Blvd., CA 90069-2206. For more information visit postartfordemocracy.com.
Connect with this reporter: Email [email protected] or connect on social media at Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter) and @ crunnells1 (Instagram).
If you are going to
What: “Postcards for democracy”
When: Until August 8
Or: Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Florida SouthWestern State College, 8099 College Parkway SW, Building L, South Fort Myers.
COVID Rules: Masks and social distancing required
Info: 489-9313 or rauschenberggallery.com