Museum of Motherhood

MamaBlogger365 – How to Get Ahead in a MAIL Dominated World: Karen Arp-Sandel’s FeMail Manifesto

I’ve been mailing art for decades. I started innocently enough. Now the very act of mailing art through the USPS, creating a paper trail, seems like radical activism. Who writes a letter anymore? Who even uses the mail anymore? Certainly all of our virtual and electronic ways of getting in touch are surpassing the basics of the U.S. postal system. Did you know that there is an international NETWORK of mail artists who literally “push the envelope”? Now that is the kind of mail dominated world FeMail artists can handle.

Who is your DADA? By KA-S

Who is your DADA? © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

Who is your DADA? (back); © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

Historically, mail art reaches back to the early 20th century. You will notice that I call myself the Mama of Dada, joining the ranks of my favorite and family-linked experimental art groups, those crazy Dadaists.

In 2010, I created an altered encyclopedia, titled, Who is your DADA? for the Belskie Museum’s Information Revisited Exhibition. My volume D, open to the entry about DADA explored my Dadaist ancestor, Jean Arp with the use of “Collage According to Chance,” one of his techniques.

This postcard visually describes to Suzi my thoughts about my art process, using a portrait of Jean Arp and the quote from Carl Jung, “The Soul Speaks in Image.” It is mounted on cardboard packaging, with painted vintage encyclopedia pages and antique postage. Like the Dadaists before me, I employ typography as a design element. On the reverse, a Divine chocolate wrapper forms a substrate, with references to Suzi’s love of surfing in the postage stamp I chose and the Kingfisher beer labels from a celebratory beer we shared at our FeMail Exhibit Opening in March 2010.

A Big Luscious Sexcess by KA-S

A Big Luscious Sexcess; © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

A Big Luscious Sexcess (back); © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

Who doesn’t sometimes feel fragmented by the demands of mothering and sexuality? What does it take to find the extra energy for creativity in the midst of a long day?

This is my black and white typographical manifesto about BODY LANGUAGE.
In response to Suzi’s reawakened Mama Gena-ized Self, I made a bold ad-like collage about sexuality. The opposite side of the post card leaps forth in brilliant red, gold, and orange, claiming the colors of passion while declaring Motherhood “Sweet, smart and SEXY, works on every level.” I hope my favorite pal from the U.P. in Michigan got a good dose of bliss when she chuckled over her mail that day!

Three Graces 2 by KA-S

Three Graces 2; © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

Three Graces 2; © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

For me, the life of an artist is glued together with my life in every way.
Putting together my mixed media solo exhibit called Conversational Collage Chronicles at Simons Rock College of Bard, I reflected deeply upon this art process that chronicles my life with collage, travel journals, mixed media textile and assemblage pieces and of course, Mail Art.

Having a supportive family, including a sister artist with whom I exchanged 100 post cards in 2000-2001, sustains the artist in me. Two places to read more about the art I’ve made with my sister are Curious Tourist Project and
The Sister Project. This post card to Suzi recalls that moment in my exhibiting life, using three modern Muses, who remind us of our wild women selves. On the back, text masking, a technique I teach to my students, is used to create a found message with selected words, including the title of my exhibition. This represents a time of being seen for all that I am: artist, mother of two children, and lucky wife of the best husband in the world.

Aftermath of LIFE by KA-S

Aftermath of LIFE; © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

Aftermath of LIFE; © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

I am an Art House Artist, where I go by the name Mama of Dada. Art House creates community by offering projects to an international network of artists through their website. I’ve participated in four projects and now have three books that traveled cross the United States and back, two of which belong to Art House Brooklyn Art Library.

The Aftermath of Life (2010), is a commentary in collage using 1950s LIFE magazine imagery to narrate my editorial view of our ever-changing world. This postcard, by the same name, uses images from my cuttings for that project, which did not make it into my book. I love retro-collage and searching vintage magazines for humorous juxtapositions.

Using the LIFE logo and a sporty golfer as a metaphor, I tell Suzi about the “Ideal way to blast out of a trap!” Saffron packaging tells about what I’ve been cooking, while 50s packaging tells about what not to cook up. This post card is available as a Fine Art Print in our FeMail Shop.

Scavenger Art & Mona Lisa by KA-S

Scavenger Art & Mona Lisa; © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

Scavenger Art & Mona Lisa; © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

The Mona Lisa and me go waaayyy back! She is one of my all time big collage ICONS.

Mona Lisa can often be found in my FeMail postcards. While I was working on my 2011 Sketch Book for Art House, titled I’m a Scavenger, I dove deep into my files of travel memorabilia and discovered this colorful Amsterdam postcard. POP Art is a direction you will often see in my artwork. This Mona Lisa is a transfer made from, of all things, printed pocket travel tissues! Collage scavengers use everything and anything to make art. Collecting is part of the process. Collecting while traveling has become habitual to me. Visit Art House’s Sketchbook Project page for more.

Thus, travel is a theme that always piques my interest. I love the idea that my artwork is traveling. My FeMail art travels from my hands through many unknown hands to Suzi’s mailbox and visually stimulates everyone along its route. My book about scavenging is traveling along with thousands of others to galleries across the US like a concert tour-only with sketchbooks.


Come to FeMailArt.com to view an online gallery and discussion of the mail art collaboration between Karen Arp-Sandel and Suzi Banks Baum. You can also see more about this exhibit at MotherhoodMuseum.org.

Image credit Karen Arp-Sandel; images © Karen Arp-Sandel, All Rights Reserved.

MamaBlogger365 needs you! Tell us how you’re re-framing motherhood and help the Museum of Motherhood secure a permanent home in 2011!

About M. Joy Rose

Woman, Mother, Human, Rocker, Educator, Activist Director; Museum of Motherhood President and Founder; MaMaPaLooZa Inc. a company by Women, Promoting (M)others for social, cultural and economic benefit. Dedicated to a more educated, more peaceful, more musical planet.


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