Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Went to Richard Canard's Storage Unit and Took Things Home

Out of the blue, I get an email from someone I didn’t know. This doesn’t happen anymore, I can’t think of the last time I gave out my email address. It was a pleasant surprise. The email read.
“I am writing on the request of my brother Richard C.[real name redacted] (e.g. Richard C.) to see if you have any interest in his MANY Art magazines that are currently in storage in Thomasville, NC. We are in Thomasville this week (Sept. 20-26) staying with a relative and he is going through a storage unit to throw away items. If you have any interest in viewing some art magazines and/or books, then send an email to either…”
In Richard fashion, in the name of creative correspondence, the man has his sister to send the email on his behalf, a woman I have never met in my life. And this is why people love his work, he’s always thinking of ways to play with communication either through mail art, or a simple message.
Richard was one of the first people that sent me mail art some years ago. If I’m not mistaking, I think he was the third person to send me something after I signed up for IUOMA. The two of us went back and forth for a couple of years, before I realized that he was from NC. Much like the email above, he sent me a card asking if I wanted to meet him some place when he was in town. The two of us met up at Krankie’s about three years ago. He was kind and generous, more interested in me than I could have ever imagined. It was a great meeting, here was my mail-art guide right in front me, a guide that has location in common with me.
So yeah, of course I’m going. I almost immediately responded to the email and eagerly awaited her response. Nervous that this opportunity would go away, I sent an email to the address I thought was Richard’s. In an hour he responded with directions to the storage unit. Here is his message.
“Yes we can meet Tues around 3:30 at the Storage unit which is located on Carolina Ave. just off Jackson St. This is near the train underpass. If you need to call them use this cell phone.”
I honestly have no idea what to expect? I’m always looking for materials to make into other things. More importantly, it will be nice to see Richard again, catch up, and see what he’s doing. He’s unique personality comes out clearly in his correspondence, even if you learn little about his personal life. So yeah, I’m going, maybe in one of those boxes I’ll find a nice little treat?
I get to the storage unit right on time. I park right by the gate so I know there wasn’t a chance someone would miss me. I waited ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes, and then at the forty minute mark I decided to leave. Before I left I sent a message to both Richard and his sister and insisting on another time to meet up. In the back of my head I knew that I had done something wrong. Since my last class of the day started at 6pm I was a little crunched for time. Before a quick bite to eat, I stopped at a thrift store to look at their junk. His sister called me, saying that there was another entrance and yes, it was my own stupidity. If I would have looked closer at her directions, I would have noticed the description of another entrance. I told her I would “be there in less than a second.”
She was right, “I couldn’t miss them,” if I had gone to the right spot in the first place. Both of them were directly in front of the back entrance. Richard lets me in, I park the car, and then walk up to them. Off to the side was a large stack of boxes I could see filled with magazines and books. They made an effort to stack those just for me. I talked with his sister for a little while about Thomasville and the school system (she was a teacher for a long while in Illinois) in both of our states.
Richard stacked in six or seven boxes of art magazines into the back of my car. We gossiped about the Tucker project and he even asked how it all started. Like I remember from our first meeting, he was full of questions and painstakingly interested in my responses. Although he is my “mail art mentor” he didn’t take that angle with me.
More than once he mentioned how my “enthusiasm had energized” a lot of people to create and learn about mail-art. This was a great compliment to me. Considering that he was one of the first people I sent mail-art to, he saw my first forays (which were terrible) into the whole thing. In other words, I went from someone mailing awful things from North Carolina to someone that would create and help curate a show about mail-art. I’m in the deep in. I’m not stopping. His encouragement is invaluable to me. I can’t believe he even thought of me when he was trying to free up some things in the first place.
Unfortunately all three of us had things we had to go to. I had to go back to work and they were doing work. I’m not sure if they had to clear out the whole storage unit or not, but if they did they were going to be there for some time. I told Richard to get in touch the next time he was in town, “maybe we’d get a coffee or something” and then I had to leave. I wish there was more time. He let me out of the gate and I said to him and almost embarrassingly, “See you in the mail.” I’ve already drafted a thank you letter to him.
When I got back to work I went through a few of the boxes quickly. I flipped through the old random books about literature and lists as well as the art magazines from the 80’s and 90’s. Some of them were from the 1970’s. Lots of Art Forums, Art Digest, Art Something or Other, perfect for making other things. If I were to be honest, I was looking for a little treasure in there somewhere, some mail-art gem. One small box was filled with rocks, pieces of metal, and two light bulbs he had written all over and signed. One was a drawn skull. I’ll be keeping both of these. The rocks and whatnot will be distributed to other mail-art folks under the title “Things from Richard Canard’s Storage Unit.”

8 comments:

Ruud Janssen said...

a fascinating story. Love the lamp!

Мария Некрасова said...

I was reading like a detective - what's the next, around the corner? what's in the box? Moreover, the story encourages newcomers to mail art - as me.. And this is just touching. Thank you!

Pamela Gerard said...

Jon -- that is an amazing and delightful story! Lucky you. I have gotten a couple of great postcards from him but that's it. Lucky you -- getting to meet him. And I just popped a collage in the mail to you.

joey said...

Loved that book of lists whe it was first out

Planet Susannia said...

Great story. Thank you for sharing with us. I received also amazing postcards from Joseph. His little, handwritten masterpieces are fantastic, unusual, witty.
Have fun with your new treasures, you lucky guy!

zzzzzzzz said...

@ Ruud, thanks so much for the nice words. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful work with IUOMA over the years, I feel like I needed to write that.

@ The second poster, sorry I can't reciprocate your name. I'm going to post some more images of all of the finds later in the weekend. I'm going to do a little Richard Canard expose on my blog for a little while.

@ Pamela, actually I've met him one other time. We hung out at a coffee show in Winston Salem for a few hours. I wrote about that one too. I can't wait to see the new card.

@ Sussania, I can't wait to go through everything. I've looked through the books but haven't even had the chance to work through the magazines just yet. It looks like I'll be scanning a lot this coming weekend. Of course, it'll be posted.

zzzzzzzz said...

PS - I've located my original written account of meeting Richard C. that I'm going to share soon.

Rebecca said...

Wow! I spy Richard Diebenkorn on the front of one of the stash!

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