Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Tucker Fan Club Mail Art Show!!!

I guess I met Tucker in or around Recreations Billiard some seven or eight years ago. At the time my friends and I were watching a lot of football there. He was running the door and about to start dating his future wife who was a bartender at the same location. This was before he bought The Garage, of course. Honestly, I’m not sure if all this is true, but I’m writing the story as I think things happened.
On a whim I started making songs under the name Nostrils. No one was at all amused or even entertained by these songs except for Tucker. For some reason he liked them, or at least he said he did. All the songs were about food or hating this or that, real deep stuff. Since Tucker was my only fan (or at least the only person willing to admit it) I decided to make a few songs about him. First off I made sure to ask his wife if this would be ok, and then I immediately ask for things to make fun of him about. The whole six songs lasted maybe seven or eight minutes and focused almost entirely on his interest in soccer and his height. He laughed, so it was a success.
By the time Tucker started posting his daily Movember (a campaign to raise money for men’s health) pictures last fall, I was deeply into mail-art. Every year that goes by I seem to take on more mail-art related tasks. At the time I was especially interested in hand making books. I’d take a children’s board book and then pile tons of paper and tape and paint on the sturdy pages, and then “viola,” a new thing. Some of these I would mail off for collaborations and others I’d create alone. Since Tucker was my biggest fan, why not do a book of collages around each one of the images he posted daily for the campaign. So I did this, I then scanned them and posted them online. This was really the impetus for the Fan Club.
One picture in particular stuck out to me, it was simple, just a floating Tucker head on a simple background, a nice well-established mustache firmly on the upper lip. This was my favorite picture by far, one worthy of art making. I ordered stickers of this image and then started to distribute them to anyone who was interested, and then I got in touch with a lot of my mail-art friends who wanted to create some collages.
Seeing an opportunity I went to work on spreading Tucker’s visage throughout the mail-art network. At first I was asking friends who I’d sent to for years if they were interested. Some would say yes so I’d add them to my list. I initially made small packets of different sized printed Tucker heads that I created at work. In those packets I put a little description of the project and a sticker or two, pretty simple. My last information was they had to send them back to me.
In no time the Tucker themed mail-art started to show up. At first I was simply posting the responses on my own Facebook page and then through the International Union of Mail-Artists Page. As more and more people asked for starter packets I realized I had something on my hands that could grow and grow and grow. It only made sense to organize all of the artwork I was receiving on one Facebook page. I decided to call it the Tucker Fan Club. My main goal was to give the impression that there were people all over the world who were working for the Fan Club although it was just me. Dealing directly with people who knew Tucker or mail-artists who might be interested meant that I was filling a lot of orders for packets and for stickers. I had to make a second round of stickers within weeks of starting the online Fan Club.
Obviously Tucker was on board with this from the start. Over the first couple of weeks of the project we were in touch with one another. We even got a small write up over the Fan Club in a local weekly newspaper. Getting interviewed for the project was beyond surreal.
Not only was I making sticker packets and mail-art packets, I was scanning and then posting everything that was coming in. I made the packets, mailed then off, waited for them to return, scanned whatever they sent me, and then in order posted their work along with their names. I repeated this process for about six or seven months. Every weekday I would post the next round of Tucker art in the order they were received. The submissions came from everywhere, from right down the road to Morocco, to South Africa, to South Korea. The amount of work was staggering and it kept coming in during most of that six month period. Only one submission was mildly inappropriate, coming Tucker’s friend.
Around the second or third month of receiving all the work, it made sense to show everything in one place. Obviously it wouldn’t work at the Garage. Randomly I started sending passive-aggressive mail to a gallery in town. I started with stuff about mail-art and then moved to more direct items about what I wanted to do. All in all I sent about eight or ten things over a month long period. I even sent them a Facebook message right at the start, but nothing. They never responded. Well…that’s not entirely true, one of their employees drunkenly stated they were interested while the two of us were at a bar. Nothing ever came of that. I quit sending the passive aggressive mail.
Periodically I’d talk to Tucker and the comings and goings of the project. He’d make some suggestions here and there but mostly we’d talk about the work. Through a message he suggested that Ember Gallery was interested in showing everything. I sent a message to the high end audio and gallery space. Within a few back and forth messages, Blake (one of the proprietors) and I had a time to meet up and discuss the project. In less than an hour we had hashed out a date for the show and all of the minor details. We met one more time to check the progress of everything and that was pretty much it. It was all easy, no worries.
One of my activities was to make up some packets to hand out to folks coming through the door. The intent was to introduce people to the project and to mail-art more specifically. I made up more stickers as well as one inch buttons. I also put in a bunch of Tucker paper heads so people could make their own mail-art. I had a list of all the mail-artists in the show with their country of origin and some information about how to support the fan club. It took me about two months to put everything in the packets together. Not only did I have to design and print many of the elements but I had to wait on the stickers and buttons to arrive, and to decorate the front and back of the envelops.
The most exciting part of the packets was being about to attach the wonderful contribution from Machine Gun Graphics. Those fine people printed up around 100 pillowcases with the man’s face on them in assorted colors. I slipped them into a plastic envelope and then added the other packet and taped it all up…it was a handsome give-away if I say so myself. I made around 80 of these packets and gave them all away in the first two hours.
On Wednesday November 4th Blake, Taylor, and myself gathered to put everything up on the walls. It was fun seeing it all go up. Somehow my small plastic box where I kept all of the items fit on their walls. In the box it seemed so small, so much like nothing; up there it looked like something, it looked impressive. Honestly, I felt a bit of pride in helping produce this anomaly. It was also fun doing something creative with other people when it’s mostly just me making stuff, alone.
It took a little while to make sure it “looked right” on their walls. An idea to run filament line on the wall was quickly jettisoned because of the weight of many of the objects. Instead we used the line as a guide to even up the work, which we attached clips to and then hung on pushpins. Since we were encouraging people to pick things up and look at them, this was the most perfect way we could present so much stuff.
A few folks dropped in as we were organizing things. Most of the people knew what was going on, and knew Tucker. Listening to people talk about the project I realized that no one knew much about mail-art. Like I suspected, people thought it was cute, like it was an internet meme come to life, which isn’t too far off. The most reoccurring comment was about the astonishment that so many people so far away who hadn’t ever met him had done something like this. In a roundabout way I tried to say that this is what they do, they make things and then mail them but I’m not sure that message was clear. After a while I stopped trying to explain it and fell into the music playing on the nicest audio equipment I had ever been in a room with. I appreciated the energy and especially the giggles.
I wasn’t as nervous about the show as I thought I would be. In a way, I felt like my job was kind of done. I produced and curated the thing, the fine people at Ember were going to show it, so I was going to stand back and watch as people looked at it. Of course hand out things, and answer a question or two.
Around 6:30 pm people started to show up, mostly friends who we’d contacted directly or those that know Tucker really well. It was the type of show that took a little time to figure out what was going on, it required a little context. Thankfully Taylor was providing most of that context for the show and telling everyone who walked through the door about our raffle, which was designed for me to recoup some of the cost associated just with the show. Taylor was on point with that stuff, by the end of the night he had his spiel down.
Around 8 pm the whole gallery was full, mostly with people I’d never seen before. I’d walk up to them and say “Packet!” and then push a bunch of paper and fabric and plastic into their hands. I could imagine this part being a bit off-putting, you know you show up to look at art and someone gives you a pillowcase with a strangers face on it. There was coffee and a large mustache (appropriately themed) cake and music that sounded great on those speakers. Blake was running around trying to draw attention to the many new receivers he’d got into the shop. I did not envy his position.
Once I finished handing out all of my packets I started handing out a lot of stickers to random groups of School of the Arts kids and their well to do elderly counterparts. The young kids would giggle and point at things and pick them off the wall while the older folks would shake their head and run out. A couple of them even gave me back the sticker I handed them. It was nice to see a couple of friends that had work in the show stand in front of it, and take a picture. It was nice to say Amy Irwen, Monika Mori, and K.S. Chambers’ names over and over again in relation to their amazing contributions. It was nice to get to talk about mail-art for a period of time. Tucker’s mom even showed up!
Some time ago I wrote that only one submission was “inappropriate.” Unfortunately I told this to one of my friends, who knew the artist personally. I only said this one time but almost immediately the word started going around that there was some nasty shit in one of the envelopes. Of course this was the most ogled work in the whole show. Every time I looked up someone would be taking the benign “I Like Tuck” bit of paper off the wall to reveal the manila envelope underneath. People would gather and then giggle about the inappropriate nature of the hidden work. I think the taboo drew everyone’s attention as the night went on.
Everyone was happy with how things turned out. I was happy, Ember Gallery was happy, and the people who showed up seemed happy. One friend even told me, “This was the most fun I’d had at any art show in Winston-Salem.”
Even my mail-art mentor chimed in through social media about the show. “07,11.15 Jon Foster, Congratulations !!!! Break a leg!!! (& all that jazz)...What is it? ...is this the 3rd or is it the 4th mail art extravaganza you've assembled now ??? You are putting Winston-Salem back on the map (even with "No-Smoking" in the Main office). ...."Tucker themed collages. Somehow that turned into a worldwide mail-art meme"------could that be because Clark Gable still lives & Jon Foster is the is Holly/Tanglewood Czar of Mail Art??? Best to you. Richard Canard.”
A couple people asked me if this was the end of The Tucker Fan Club. The answer was “no,” but kinda. Anything that is sent to the fan club I’m going to scan and post for as long as I receive things. Posted images of the pillowcases in action or stickers or any related ephemera will also be posted. I doubt I will continue aggressively trying to promote the fan club in hopes that it will take on a life of its own.

9 x 9 Update / 36 Participants

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