Postcards to Brattleboro

Postcards to Brattleboro by Chuck Welch
mixed media; 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Brattleboro Museum & Art Center


Postcards to Brattleboro: 40 Years of Mail Art

at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA
14 March-12 October 2020

Stuart Copans’ artwork speaks through the simple tools and materials of everyday life: paper, scissors, postcards, and stamps. The art he creates moves quietly around the world through a distribution network operated by an enormous postal bureaucracy. Mail carriers in Brattleboro, Vermont, know about Copans’ unusual mail, and mail clerks participate (unaware or voluntarily) in the placement of postmarks and other rubber cancellation marks. 

Mail art senders are also receivers. In fact, in the world of mail art, the address IS the art, and mail carriers are heroes! This exhibition is a testimony to what Copans has received through many years of participation in what would otherwise be an invisible art form, hidden to all except the local post folks. Said Copans, “Postal officials appreciate my mail, even the inflated water toy that looked like a dragon!” No wonder he is a legend in Brattleboro to all who handle his mail.

postcard by Julie Hagen Bloch
Courtesy of the artist and Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

Copans’ postcards and philatelic “first-day covers” are festooned with rubber stamps, whimsical doodles, eloquent cut-outs, drawings on birch bark, poems, ditties, and Rorschach-like silhouettes, cut with fantastic agility and speed. All of Copans’ mail art appears under the mysterious pseudonym “Shmuel,” a name that has come to personify something beautiful, weird, and unexpected. For nearly fifty years, recipients have welcomed Shmuel’s sendings in anticipation of objects that are fascinating, intriguing, mysterious, provocative, and humorous. Opening his mail is always an event!

“Postcards to Brattleboro” includes mail art from Shmuel to another New England mail artist, CrackerJack Kid (Curator Chuck Welch). Also included in this exhibition are mail art ephemera that Copans received from Kandy Phillips, Walt Evans, Julie Hagan Bloch, John Bennett, Jazzy Lupa, Peter Dudley, Andrea Jay, and Ryosuke Cohen. Finding these artists’ mail art involved searching through numerous packages and boxes in Copans’ extensive mail art archive. His collection is estimated to include over 25,000 artifacts.

(text adapted from Curator Chuck Welch’s curatorial statement)


Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
10 Vernon Street
Brattleboro, Vermont 05301 USA
(802) 257-0124

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