Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turning Junk Mail into Art

An interview with Artist Rev K
by William Hessian

Just over a year ago, I was turned on to a local artist in Minneapolis who was sending out free drawings of Oprah Winfrey to collectors. This idea, mailing art around the world, was one that parallels some of my own projects (art trading/ sketchbook of doom/creature exchange) and therefore caught my trembling excitement.

The artist is Reverend K. Since I received this awesome hand drawn Oprah card, Rev K and myself have crossed paths in a number of really interesting ways. After viewing his work on myspace, I invited him to feature his larger Oprah paintings in an art show I was having at my gallery. I have run into him at many local music venues, most recently at the U of M's Coffman and the Hexagon. We were even, quite randomly, in a Cloud Cult music video together.

In a few short conversations with the artist, he revealed to me a Junk Mail Art project! Once again, a project that rivals one of my very own, you can watch the video of my junk mail project here. Rev K's junk mail project is quite different, and quite brilliant. I have asked Rev K to answer a few question about his junk mail art project to be answered right here:

Can you briefly explain your junk mail project? 

Rev K: Yeah, sure Billy, and thanks for the interest. Junk Mail Art are drawings I've done on the backs of junk mail envelopes. I number all of them, sign them and write a few positive declarations on the back. I then give them freely over to the fates allowing the finder/receiver the option to keep, give or toss the piece as they see fit. Often I leave them on a table or at the bar, sometimes I give them to someone I think may enjoy or appreciate them.

(here is a sample: left at the Urgent Sound Gallery Feb 23rd, 2008)

When and where did the idea for your junk mail art project come from? 

The Junk mail thing started initally by accident. As I'm sure just about any phone doodler will tell you junk mail is the perfect disposable medium; It's cheap, plentiful and usually onhand. On occasion the end result would impress me so I started keeping some of them.

I found that many of these drawings were a lot freer in form than some of the stuff I'd set out to draw. This got my wheels turning. Why shouldn't I take junk mail, which is essentially garbage and recycle it into art? There's lots to go around, and I can always use practice drawing. Also, who doesn't like getting "art" for free?

My first intentional piece was created back in January. It was more doodle-like--filling in around the margins. I numbered it 1,000,000, thinking it has to have been at least the millionth piece I'd received, and have numbered down since.

How many envelope drawings have you done so far?

I'm currently in the 999,930s.

What are some examples of places, venues and people to which these original works go?

The Hexagon Bar or Turf Club seem to be the venues most frequently used for lift off. But I've left them at venues all over town: The Nomad, Big V's, Statiu's, 331 Club, 400 Bar to name drop but a few. I tend to give the ones I particularly like to individuals. Often a performer I enjoyed or a server I like. This goes slightly against the survival-of-the-fittest concept that I initially had but tough, it's my project I can do what I like.

Where was the most interesting place you have left one of your works, or the most interesting response from a person who you gave one to?

A guy told me he's got two of them on fridge at home. I like that I've been elevated to the hallowed spot of their kids' art.

I have to ask, how did your name, Reverend K come about?

At first it was about anonymity. I didn't want to use my name on my myspace account so I chose Rev K. I had already launched the religion of Oprah-Haus and wanted a buffer between me and the Harpo legal staff. Also, I am an ordained minister. It only cost me 20 bucks in the back of the Enquirer. 

Have you reversed your attitude towards junk mail? Do you now enjoy getting blank canvases in the mail?

I have definitely become more choosy of my canvases. I can afford to be cuz they just keep coming. There are a few letters I get that I have grown to love getting: Fidelity has nice long envelopes, while MPR has cute little ones.

What medium do you use to create the entertaining, often hilarious, and always clever subject matter?

Black Sharpies and, of course, junk mail envelopes. 

(the fly (one of my personal favorites). left at the kitty kat club may 24th, 2008)

You have numbered these works starting from one million counting backwards, did you ever consider actually carrying it out all the way to #1? 

Christ no. I may ride that train til my end, but a million? And in the future all junk mail will be automatically downloaded to the chip in our heads.

I do boast to owning one of your junk mail artworks in this project, during our chance meeting at the Cloud Cult music video filming at Como Zoo. Do you think anyone may at some point try to go back and find and collect these works? Maybe collectors will seek out your stomping grounds to meet people you know in order to interview the crowd for possible art holders?

Frankly, I'm just touched you still have yours. Hard to know what anyone will put value in. My hope is that someone will look at them, enjoy them and maybe keep them. On top of that I do a little moralizing on the back about loving each other and taking care of each other. I hope that part sticks too.

(heres the junk mail art I own. Received during the making of the Cloud Cult music video)

If you enjoyed this article make sure to visit Reverend K's myspace to browse his art and all of his junk mail collection. Meanwhile, I do hope to continue to run into him in the near future, and I plan to survey his myspace to follow the ongoing excitement that is attached to your junk mail art project. I wish rev K the best of luck continuing this excellent series of work.

Let's all hope to turning Junk Mail into Art and spread peace wherever we go!

A big thank you to Rev K for taking part in the interview and shedding light on his project.

This blog has earned me the:

Message in a Bottle Award from


Liquid said...

Great concept! I love junky images!


Wendy said...

Great interview. I love it. I do a web site about letter writing and love discovering new things about mail art (and anything letter related)!

In one of my future posts, I hope to be linking to this interview of yours! :)

Anonymous said...

Your all art work is nice and attractive thanks sharing with us.

Wendy said...

Hey there, just FYI, I finally got around to post a link to your review on A Passion for Letter Writing

Also, the post below that one has an interview I did with a mail artist who hosts an envelope swap. You might like reading that one.

Pam said...

Hilarious. I forgot to follow the bunny but I've added you now. Wendy found me (the empty envelope) and then posted this and I know BOTH Hessian and the good Rev!!! LOL!

William Hessian said...

i love when the world seems small. i am finally finding all the good artists in minneapolis, and now the good artist bloggers.

Rev K seems to have connections to everyone. He is an inspiring guy, both professionally and personally. Cordial, funny, and quite brilliant.

Meanwhile, I am really loving Wendy's blogs!

Wendy said...

I'm BAAAACK! I came back to notify you that you are an official recipient of the Message in a Bottle Award! You can check it out at the Award Page if you are interested. (This is NOT a viral award!)

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