Press To Open 'Postal Pinacotheca' Exhibit


NORTH ADAMS, MA - On Thursday, Aug. 30, the PRESS: Letterpress as a Public Art Project gallery will open its third DownStreet Art 2012 exhibition, "Postal Pinacotheca," a mail exchange between artists from America and Australia.

This show features work that was exchanged throughout the course of a yearlong project. It began in August 2011, when six artists came together to participate in an international mail exchange project. For the project, instigator Tara O'Brien invited five friends to participate. These women are print makers, book artists and, despite very busy lives, continue to make artwork.

Members of the PRESS team, Pam Buchanan and Andy Cross, will operate the Vandercook Universal III, the centerpiece of PRESS, during the Aug. 30 opening, which is free and open to the public. They will create a special edition postcard that they will give away. The festivities will begin at 6 p.m., and all ages are welcome to attend.

Once O'Brien set up the framework for the project, artworks were due every two months, finishing first in September, then November, January, March, May and July. Each round began with a theme chosen by one of the artists. The themes for each month, respectively, were: money, inside/outside, travel, habitat, weather and animal-mineral-vegetable.

The artists from Australia are Babette Angell, Anne-Maree Hunter and Heather Matthew. From this country are Katie Baldwin, Melanie Mowinski and O'Brien.

When asked about the project, O'Brien said, "Ever since the Griffen and Sabine series, I've been fascinated by mail art. I wondered how messages sent through the mail can be enhanced by art, decoration, or design. I've also wondered at the recipient's reaction. Is it similar to mine when I get something special in the mail? Are they excited? 

"There is also the unavoidable audience/participant factor - the postal workers in our global postal system," O'Brien continued. "This unintended factor must be embraced for the project to be successful. As participants, the postal workers add their own twist on the project. For example, my Inside/Outside exchange piece reached Katie and Melanie in a matter of days, but the copy I sent to myself took three weeks! What were they doing with it?  

"The mail is unpredictable - the items we've sent have traveled through many hands to reach the recipient. The journey leaves its own marks. The cancelation of the stamp, the scuff of a machine: all of these marks are evidence of the journey," O'Brien added. "While some might find these a blemish, to me it becomes part of the process of the work. Work intended to travel far, touch many people, will of course have external forces acting on it. Evidence of the interactions is found in these marks."

PRESS is supported by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. PRESS is located 105 Main Street in North Adams. For more information, go to, find us on Facebook or contact