Having recently moved to rural Maine, I am increasingly aware of the geographical distance between myself, my family and friends, and thriving contemporary art communities around the country. I refuse to allow the physical distances to cripple my already established social and artistic networks. These networks now exist in different formats--mainly in virtual space online—and I’m discovering alternative ways to keep in contact with those who are now hundreds of miles away.
This exhibition attempts to find a creative solution to overcoming great distances by establishing contact with a group of twelve artists scattered throughout the United States. I made a conscious decision to ask artists within my social network to which I have varying degrees of friendship. I wouldn’t recognize several of the participating artists on the street, as our relationships exist solely through communication online. On the opposite end of the spectrum are artists I would consider myself having very close relationships with: a former professor and mentor; the officiant of my wedding; dear friends from graduate school. The remaining artists lie somewhere in between these poles—even if we don’t socialize regularly, I follow their work and studio practice closely.
Due to rapidly evolving technology, the way in which we communicate and share information has become increasingly depersonalized. The days of sending handwritten letters and hardcopy mail appears to be disappearing. That decline is even more evident with the closures of post offices around our country. I asked each artist to send me an original postcard-sized work of art. While retaining his/her own visual language, the artist was to respond in some way to what he/she already knew about my new current location/home. This interpretation could be as broad as the state of Maine or as specific as the features of the house that I live in. This information will vary for each artist depending on how well we know each other. As the title suggests, this is an exchange—the artists send me a postcard, I send each of them one in return. Each artist was asked to include key words describing their current location/home in the message on the back of their postcard to me. The message could be as vague or specific as the artist desired and aided in supplying the visuals for my response postcard sent back to each of them at the conclusion of the show.
In his book The Gift, author Lewis Hyde suggests that “gift exchange tends to be an economy of small groups, of extended families, small villages, close-knit communities, brotherhoods, and, of course, of tribes.” This show is a testament to that economy but goes beyond artists simply sending gifts to each other. Sharing details of home and place, each participant allows viewers and myself into their most comfortable space whether I’ve physically been there before or not. The show is likewise my way of inviting these individuals to my home without the expense and inconvenience of travel. The convenience of social media is easy and quick, sometimes even thoughtless. Utilizing the straightforward function of the United States Postal Service, this show is an appreciation of this simple service for helping to conquer great distances and connect individuals through works of art.