May-June 2007

Going Postal

By Brooke Alberts

I love to get things in the mail that are actually For Me- not just sent to me because I live at my address. What's even better is when the mail does not consist solely of bills and notices from school. I am a Person of Many Hobbies, and currently I'm engaged in swapping things through the mail. This means that not entirely random but certainly intriguingly unknown items arrive at intervals in my mailbox. Currently I am involved in the free exchange of teabags, magazine articles, homemade envelopes, "cute socks," items from India, creative writing prompts (in the form of a fortune-cookie fortune and an evocative photo image), a small soft handmade toy, and a few others. Since it is contained in the swapping ethos to amuse and entertain the swapper at the other end, it's a good workout for creativity and generosity muscles. One swap consisted of one item to each of five partners. The categories were something: a. Orange b. Sweet c. Cosmic d. Whimsical and e. Odd. I challenged myself to send out items that contained at least 2 of these qualities at once. Most recently I joined a swap where the participants create a brochure, postcard and souvenir to promote a vacation is some otherworldly location...

One of the main exchange media for the group I am involved in ( is that of Artist Trading Cards. These are small works of art the size of baseball cards (2 ½ in. x 3 ½ in.), created in series', signed and numbered. They can be displayed in trading-card sleeves and are not to be sold, but only exchanged. The concept was developed by the Swiss artist M. Stirnemann in 1996 and the notion has caught on with the artistically inclined as a way to express themselves, connect with each other and share their personal styles. Subject matter is proposed (such as "animals wearing hats," "inspired by Yogi Tea" or "Paris") and each artist is free to use painting, drawing, sewing, collage (or whatever feels like fun) to address the theme and then send the cards to their swap-mates.

Many of these exchanges are open to swappers from around the world, so patience is required when an envelope is wending its way from Europe or New Zealand. I generally make it a practice to send any flat items in envelopes that I create out of old calendar or magazine pages, just because it's fun and gratifying for those at both ends. As an inveterate Connector (I was a pen-pal enthusiast as a young thing, and an Internet communicator since Back in the Day, when I had to go use the UCSB Physics Dept. computers in the dead of night to send communiqués to my honey at the South Pole), this offers me yet another avenue to exchange ideas with other like-minded folks. Swap-Bot has a rating method that allows those who are just in it to receive and not to exchange to be identified and disincluded after too many unexplained and un-rectified flake-outs. Now to go off and be "inspired by Yogi Tea"...

"Success is when you make your personality infinite. From ‘I am happy,' make everyone happy; ‘I am satisfied,' make everyone satisfied; ‘I am healthy,' make everyone healthy; ‘I am spiritual,' make everyone spiritual."

CAFAM is hosting an exhibition called "Dreaming in Color: Aboriginal Art from Balgo" (Balgo is located in Western Australia between the Tanami and the Great Sandy Deserts.)

It is on loan from the Kluge-Rohe Aboriginal Art Collection, University of Virginia, (augmented by objects from the Felton Foundation of Santa Monica) from April 29th to Aug. 12th. It will be the first time that an exhibition of Australian Aboriginal art has been mounted in a Southern California museum. There will be a lecture Sunday May 6th at 3:00pm at the CAFAM on Aboriginal Australian Art by historians Kerry Smallwood and Richard Kelton.

There will be roughly thirty-five of the colorful, rich in surface pattern, visually active and also meaningful contemporary acrylic paintings by members of the Kutatja, Ngarti and Walmajarri peoples from Balgo on display. The Dreaming referred to in the show's title is a complex and all-encompassing Australian Aboriginal worldview concept which I will feebly put forth here: As I understand it, Dreamings are eternally present ancestral beings (and their actions) that move and shape Everything. The Dreaming is also at the foundations of laws and ritual, the totemic entities, and the living landscape. Dreamings live on through those who have inherited the right and responsibility to preserving their memory and perpetuation.

Western Desert acrylic paintings characteristically contain forms and content of iconography and designs traditionally used in rock and body and ground paintings, but only the ones that are OK for outsider viewing. This show will be organized around the categories of Women's Law (women's rituals and images inspired by women's body paint designs), Men's Law (stories of Tingari and Watikutjarra ancestors), My Country (their place of conception or birth) and Formation of Landscape (tales of how ancestral beings created the earth's forms). A selection of anthropological items from the people of the region will be displayed along with the contemporary paintings.

There will be a lecture on Aboriginal Art by historians Kerry Smallwood and Richard Kelton at the Craft and Folk Art Museum on Sunday, May 6 at 3pm.

Craft and Folk Art Museum

5814 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90036


Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 11am - 5pm, Thursday 11am - 7pm, Saturday and Sunday 12 - 6pm

Admission: General $5.00; Students and Seniors: $3.00; CAFAM Members and children under 12 Free; 1st Wednesday of month Free.

Brooke Alberts is a songwriter and has a Masters degree in Medieval Studies.

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