Mail-Interview with E.F. Higgins - III - USA
Started on: 16-05-1995
RJ :Welcome to this mail-interview. First let me ask you the traditional question. When did you get involved in the mail-art network?
Reply on: 15-9-95
EFH:Thanks for the invite to the interview. I haven't been doing much international mail art for a number of years, due to the postal rates, & I was spending US$ 700 a year on postage there for a while. To answer your question, I got involved in the mail art network about 1975-'76. At the Univesity of Colorado, I was working with paintings & printmaking, working from "2-D" objects as my models. Posters, Postcards, Play money, Stamps, envelopes, etc. I produced the first sheet of Doo Da art stamps in 1975. Right around that time a visiting artist. Edwin Golik Golikoff, a N.Y. Artist, living in Denver, told me about mail art, Buster Cleveland, Ray Johnson, Anna Banana, etc. I started mailing the stamps, collages etc. around then.
RJ :What were the first reactions of the people you started to mail your works to?
Reply on 5-10-1995
EFH:That would be hard to figure, as I wasn't there, when they got their mail. Mail art is neither a wrapped gift to a friend at their birthday Party, nor a Rauschenburg, in a show, in a Museum, in a collection, reproduced in an Art Business Magazine, commented about by "Art Critics" etc. etc.
Judging from the responses, from other artists, through the mails, some of my stuff must have interested some to respond. The many different mail artists' correspondances revealed the miraid various influences affecting these artists. Golikoff used a typewriter, & puns in many of his letters & postcards. Ray Johnson, his grey copies of drawings, gosip, & puns. His
surreal puns, sometimes understood. Concrete poetry, newspaper & picture collage, pornography, manifestos, self-documentation, self- historification, self-promotion, were some of the things sent, received, & seen in mail art show catalogues.
One of these things were stamps; on the letters from real countries, artists stamps, & rubber stamps. Due to my background interest, I gravitated to corresponding, with these concerns, to other artists & shows having this as a format or main idea. The 1975 Show of Artist Stamps at Simon Frazier university, B.C., Canada, organized by Jas. W. Fetler, visually introduced
me to the world of the following artists from that show: Pat Tavenner, Joel Smith, Donald Evans, Ken Friedman, Robert Watts, Bernd Lobach, Endre Tot, Klaus Burkhardt, Carl Camu, Dieter Roth, George Ashley, & Ad Varney of the Coach House Press.
I was a painter & printmaker, and carried these diciplines into my mail art activity, most notably, Painting Doo Da Stamps. Often these 16" x 18" paintings were photographically reduced, and printed as sheets of stamps with the color copier, perforated, & used in mail art. As a printmaker in the traditional methods, the color copier was an explosive discovery to me.
No longer did time & money restricted the imagery, edition, distribution etc. To spend 2 hours each pulling an edition of Etchings, tends to discourage mailing off a dozen or so to friends, and push one more into the $ Art Gallery system.
RJ :I can understand the influence of a color copier. Some choose for a large color copy, but it seems you like to reduce your works to even smaller pieces, into artistamps. Why is this artistamp so interesting for you?
Reply on 17-10-1995
EFH:To color copy print from a large un-related artwork, such as a painting, sculpture, etc. , as an edition print seems silly exept as documentation, doing huge injustice to both the original medium & the traditional printing process. Picasso may have done a series of etchings
based on his painting "Guernica", but the prints intrinsic method, process,
look, have more to do with these concerns, than reproducing the painting. He didn't print 300 color copy prints of a photo of the painting.
When Warhol painted a 12 ft. square "Hammer & Sycle", "Deaths Head", or whatever, he probably had a pretty good idea it would "Read" when reproduced, 4 inches by four inches in some art magazine. Hireonimus Bosch probably didn't have this thought occur to him... check it out. Photography has changed the making of art, & definately Art & Business. Wouldn't a 12" x 12" Warhol have sufficed?
When I paint the Doo Da Stamp Paintings, it is understood by me that they are ment to be used to make stamps. The lettering is there, the 3P or what- ever denomination is there. It isn't, in most cases, added later. Hence, the painting becomes, what traditionally was known as a rough sketch, ie, a creative work done in the process to achieve the invisioned final "Work". To delegate painting to this role, "making color copy artstamps", turns tradition on its head, & really pisses off the Art Gallery system.
If creativity, through a process, isn't TRANSFORMED BY THAT PROCESS, it is hardly creative in my opinion. A photo, slide, or color copy may be functional, helpful, or useful in describing another artwork, but unless it is transformed, it's work$job.
ARTISTAMPS, like their traditional cousins, "Govn't minted miniature prints", share significant similarities - the main one being, I think, the imagry on them, ie "relating to the people, lands, ideas, nature, accomplishments, celebrations, religions, etc. of the country." The
correspondence carried by the regular stamps, becomes the correspondance, carried by the Artistamps in mail art, that joious dance of the muses amongst us.
How wonderful to have perhaps correspondanced with a guy from the "country" of Gauguin, Cavellini apparently correspondanced with some amazing "countries" to hear him tell it!!!
What kind of artstamps would a "country" of Picasso have produced?, & my!, wouldn't that have been fun.!!!?
The "COUNTRIES" of TUI-TUI, Blurr, BANANA, TRIANGLE, JOKI, & NETLAND, to name a few, are alive & well!!! By in large, unlike the Govn't issues, these countries have the continuity of one or two creative beings in charge of the postal issues for many, many years.
If you ever got a letter from someone in a different country, the stamps, & rubber stamp cancellation marks were a wonderful part of getting that letter. Sometimes their correspondence to you reflected the stamp imagery or not. Artistamps on mail art is a BEAUTY!
I have seen wonderful stamps from countries I may never visit - some even
with that country's art I may never see. With artistamps, the ART VISITS
YOU, not you visiting the museum! I am not against travel or museums,
actually, I love both, but to have these "COUNTRIES" visit YOU,
sometimes unexpectedly, is a treat!!!
P.S. During construction work, that I do to make a living, when somebody screws-up, I put two things to them: #1 "There's 4 things you gotta remember if you want to be a plumber:
(1) "H" stands for hot.
(2) "C" stands for cold.
(3) Friday's payday,
(4) & SHIT DON'T RUN UP-HILL.
The other thing I put to them is more insideous. After they've escaped a major disaster, for themselves, as well as others on the job, I ask 'em, "HEY! WHO PAYS YOU????? & before they can answer, I yell in their face, "SAFETY PAYS!!!
Not too long ago, here in America, some young kid burned down the house, a trailer actually, having learned fire is lighters & fun from some cartoon character named Bevis & Butthead. And now, to legally sell lighters here in Amreica, they have to be "Child-Proof". The only swear
word or obscenity I ever heard my father utter, in 50 years, was ___________, as he was teaching me power tools when I was, .... oh, maybe 13 or 14 years old, when he nearly cut off his finger.
RJ :Are there other stories of your childhood that have had an impact on your the art you produce nowadays?
Reply on 14-11-1995
EFH:Well, there once was a gal from Nantucket...
RJ :Actually, influences.... were there any other significant ...
EFH:Oh, ... you mean like stuff places, & people?
EFH:I suppose, in everyones' life, there's things to remember; if you asked anyone else, they'd say something like, "What?", even if they knew them very well, when they heard the reply. When I meet people in bars, I tell 'em: "I'm 59 years old." I think I've been doing this for the last 10 years or so.
As a youngster, growing up in a small town outside of Chicago, I had the good luck, or some may say, the "IMPRINTING" (like you see the T.V. show showing you how to have the young condors learn the wild, by eating raw meat from a puppet hand, that looks like a (they suppose) adult), to learn many things.
Probably, if anybody's still around, from back then, they'd tell you a
different story, than what'd you figure from .. say the writings of Jules
Verne, Lewis Carrol or Edgar Allen Poe. "So the guy sez to me in a bar in Kankakee, Ill. , he was out of work or something...., 'apparently this guy breaks into the PICASSO museum ... didn't like a painting, or sumptin',,,,& PAINTS OVER A PART OF IT!!!!!!!..' "so the story goes,";&
Picasso himself was in town, or sumptin'....& they get him out there for insurance purposes, you know, to assertain the damage, & whadda think he sez... you know, after looking at it and all...??? 'I look into the distance, trying to figure what the pablo might have'a said, as I looked him up & down, figuring iz this guy crazy or can he buy me another beer, when he says something....'
You mean that kind of story?
RJ :What's Picasso say?
EFH:Well, He looked at the "Damage, & pulling at his jaw, said "Not Bad."
RJ :"Did he actually..."
EFH:"Oh, Not that story...... O.K. , Hello Buster, to assume a painter, Stamp maker, or what-ever didn't used to have some fun at writing would be to deny Claes Oldenbug & all of Chicago humor.
Here's the thing: Since RJ asked the question about other stories of my childhood, "that have had an impact... etc....", I have invented his "dialogue" or return questions. I don't have a computer or e-mail....& have been corresponding with a young cartoonist that..... He does the drawing. I'll do the story line. Met 'em on the train from Chicago to GRAND CENTRAL.
So, If RJ decides to run this part of the interview, please understand, we didn't just send mail to undrstand one short word... Sometimes people talk like that. Ruud, my apologies.
Trying not to get side-tracked, on the interview, but it depends on how you're traveling, & but, anyway, we all gotta stop for eats, piss & Clear Stars.
THE ASS HOLE MUST THINK HE'S A WRITER Chapter 2 , Hemmings' typist gor $25. Bucks a page (back then)
Well, enough of my....a....ah....., well, anyway, if this is supposed to be about Artistamps , or mail art, ....here's a reply from Joel Smith, from Illinois, Illinoise. (One of the best, in my opinion, that makes Art Stamps).
(E.F. Higgins included a copy with a small text about Joel Smith's Artistamps where is explained shortly how he makes them and motivated why....)
RJ :What do you think is important enough that I should ask you? Don't start to think too much, just figure out what you think I should know, and than give the answer.......
(After some silence I first received a postcard from E.F. Higgins, and a bit later his answer with in the envelope also some of his new artistamps).
Reply on 4-3-1996
EFH:Art. At some point, in the development of human beings, we noticed our ability to control our bodies. At first this was mostly useful, to survive. & reproduce. At this early stage, was the start of many future developments, that chrystalized for thousands of years, to get to the point
of drawing bison on cave walls.
The brain was developing also. Cause & Effect. We get together to chip the flint this way, (the 'ol guy said so), tie the gut rope, such way on the wood (tree-part), & we stick into the big eatable-thing.
28 years old, was OLD. GrandPaw,.....maybe.
And so they persevered. These Humanoids. With their brain growing, their skills developing, & & The strongest leader, always led. But, DRAWING the sticking on the wall!!!! WOW What is that?
Apparently, or maybe, the early OLD, (previously BIG STRONG) learned
how to run a crew & explain, in whatever "language" they had back then,
how to get the food, & not get dead, on account of getting hooked on one of those nasty tusks.
Survival instincts have thousands of years over religions, Philosophy, & Art. Somewhere in there, as we tribes got bigger, needing a sort of Organization, Heireicy happened again. And what do you suppose they used as an argument:? "Doesn't matter, BOB, you usta be good on the
hunt, These drawings, & (& I admit) along with these guys decide you don't know what you're doing." .... & besides,......
Did that cave drawer get amazed at his or her DRAWING, or do you
suppose it was a survival instinct? And today, Here in 1996, I wonder who's doing what for what reason.
Back to you R.J.
RJ :What are YOU doing EFH? (to make it easy, what did you do today?)
(On 12-3-1996 I received an envelope from E.F. Higgins with in it two artistamps with an envelope on them with the text "Artist Creative, Originator, Genius, Hommage a Ray - Mail Art". No letter was included, and the envelope the artistamps were sent in was one of the special stamped envelopes I normally use to send my answers/questions in. The envelope was decorated in the typical style of Higgins with artistamps and rubberstamps.)
RJ :How way you correspondance with Ray?
Reply on 30-3-1996
EFH:Kennedy had been shot. I may have been young, but I wasn't old. Yesterday I thought of askingpeople that write me to send me a batch of stickers or address labels because it seems to take so long to walk around & look up their addresses, after figuring where I put it.
The knees ain't what they used to be. Like most 59 year old men, other than the normal regrets, Ray's Death bothered me. Kennedy's death bothered me in a younger way...Then. I was 25 when my 21 year old brother died, of the bends, working on a oil-rig off Bankock. The T.V. says
americans go there to get young sex, & maybe get AIDS. This was before that. & thats that. This is what?
Somewhere in there Bukowski refused to bowl with the Midgets, & I howled it last saturday in SOHO, N.Y.C., where all the Art Galleries have turned into womens shoe shops, and Harry was good news: two things:
Couple thou for one of his big Paintings, & the other guy traded him a Jean Michael Basquait.... Buster 'n I used to lend him a buck now & then years ago, when we would sit out on the corner of West-Broadway & Spring St,'s & he was spray painting his poetry.
I have been reading up on computers. Wow! The best way to bowl is get some salad, beers, warm weather, & try your best as you remember saturday mornings in the midwest in the junior bowling league. Remember the bigness of the place. Head high pin-ball machines. DON'T DROP IT! & don't touch those! swimming lessons. The Balanger Brothers stealing
those maybe same balls years later to drop them on cemi's... off the overpass. I-94.. Or maybe it was ol 66. Joliet, Illinois inmates make liecense Plates for the cars. No state has anything about bowling on their Liescence Plates. What does it say on the plates of the country of Doo Da?
It's a small country
(Here was printed the stamp of Higgins mentioning: "The country of DooDa is 12 feet in any direction from where Higgins is, at any given time.")
& then the girls get there, bringing out the salad, as we're drinking beer, turning over the hamburgers, the new one hours later, sang a better Hank than Hank Williams. & No she wasn't wearing a poka dot dress, but when I went into the kitchen, to see how she'd do on the ice-cube thing, they had the T.V. on, & I noticed how the guys that got strikes, had a Right handed
kind of glove, & aimed at the right side of the lane way down there, & they gave it a right handed twist, so's it would look like it's almost ginna get in the gutter, & then would come back, & BOOM!!! hit the #1 ball at about 5:23 (O'Clock)
I don't know where to begin. Fortunately, thats taken care of. Many stories have the average person. But how to end it? I for one don't believe for a minute, Ray jumped into that River. But as we say in Hollywood, But will it make Mney$$$????????
If this interview (to the reader) seems a bit disjointed, it's because the
obstinanstance of mailed Q. & A through the mails: When the Galantois
where here, we goofed around with a power tool called a "Router". We had
great fun drawing on wood with this machine. What it does, this machine,
is carve into wood, at 32,000 R.P.M. to facilitate WOOD Prints, on such,
usuallly non-traditional materials as Plywood. Man!, you can ink it up with
a hard rubber roller, & Print on anything, & I wonder if it will wear out
faster than them Copper Plates that Rembrandt worked on.
Back when I was in Highschool, I had a Professor, by the name of Dr.
Eastwood, encouraged me in the creative writing, since then, I've more
gone into the Visuals, than the writing.
(Perhaps it shows!)
Creativity is a wondermunt!... It should definately be encouraged. The IDEA is not a few, well distributed images or Poems, to Fakely tell somebody, that they're better than anybody else.
OK Here's the Story:
" Diego Rievera, Esher, & Wan Gris walk into this bar in Kankakee, Illinois, (U.S.A.), they have cartoons playing on the T.V.. Diego Rievera brought with him a $100.00 painting of some sort of a Gun-fight, he'd got at the antique shop. Esher was trying to buy schnopps for the bar, as I put
in Two bucks worth of Hank on the Juke, trying to remember where I put the Halstead line.....
Written interviews to Creative Genieuses tend to look like this in print.
RJ :Any more news about the country of DOO DA? Do they use firecrackers there?
Reply on 1-6-1996
EFH:Dear RJ: When I was a child, there was a Museum called the "Knight". It was somewhere in Chicago & had a pile of chains, stacked up out in front. The size of the links were about 3 feet, and this was from the Civil War era, used, they said or remembered them saying, "Used to shut
the port of Charleston.... had it across the RIVER!!!... no ships could come in or out!"
Inside were neat suits of armor, & miniture little diarammas, similar to what you might see at the N.Y.C. Museums' of Natural history, depicting say something, like... eskimo villages, or early American Indians in their Long-Houses, with part of the little roofs cut away so you could see in, except these diaramas showed people impaled on sharpened trunk-roots on living trees.... & as I remember, the scale was about the same, but I was smaller back then, & only seen the Teddy Roosevelt/Indian statue after I got there.
But I disgress, ....You asked about Doo Da, & If we use firecrackers here.
Firecrackers, traditionally are used to CELEBRATE. The spirit of
Independence & all that. Gunpowder, attributed to being invented by the
Chinese, before Marco Polo went there, was modifided within the last
century to give off more of a silver Bang, than a KA-BOOM, when used in
the aformentioned, "Firecrackers".
The "KA-BOOM" fork in the road has certantly been traveled by not only
them guys inventing "C-4", Clamore, &assorted other Big Booms, but
apparently the Uni-Bomber, several major Govn'ts, & a whole host of
greedy "El Ka-Boomers!!!" This is not "FIRECRACKERS", as we have
come to know & love the celebration. Thomas Pane, or the guy that wrote
the other things other than Gullivers Travels, ...what was his name...? 1
Tom Jefferson. Or maybe you were 12 years old, & you had a friend, name
of Jonnie Vance, with a brother that was astationed down in Georgia, &
you made a list, & saved up your Paper-route money to get some Lady-
Fingers, Bottle-Rockets, & some "16's".
I was 14, she was 13. I told her I'd been shot in a gang war. It was at
Chicago beach. I still had the bandage on my right arm, & couldn't get it
wet..... I peeked the white, plastic to show her the 32 black stitches & she
was duely impressed. She had the most beautiful Blue-Green eyes & not so
bad looking in her swim-suit, that I'd seen in days!!!!! (Hard Drive on the
Typing fingers today after, once again, becoming,... THE TILE MAN)!!!!!
When the Doctor stitched me up, he asked "Doorknob?". "Empty CO2" I
"Gorgonzola!!!" I initially said, looking at the Blue Cheese Brand
Firecracker Painting. stacked against the Perforator, "Stilton!!!" I thought
loudly to myself, somewhat pleased.
"When we were kids," the doc said, "we used to do doorknobs."
Later, I found out that, he & his gang were making firecrackers, out of
matchheads. (Look it up on the Internet). But I swear to you, the guy I
talked to, kinda kreepy, Ya know? come to my Painting Show at the "X
OXO" Gallery, didn't get the idea from me..... Hells Bells, ......Midwest
farmers been making trout ponds for years.... WATER IN, WATER OUT.
"The Stream Runs Trou!" (Ray Kelly & the Rivington School)
I've been doing this stuff for years long enough, to respect, when it says on
the lable, "THIN SET-MORTER MIX". (¬ contains PORTLAND
CEMENT) I try not to use my hands that are rapidly turning into gravel-
scoops, as the mixer-things. I left the hand lotion on the job day before
yesterday, & was amazed it wasn't home, after a prefuntctory clean-up. I
told them, if they want to use some you're welcome, but, I'm taking it
home, 'cause yesterday, I missed it.
I am working this job to save up money to get a computer. All winter I
didn't feel like painting, I didn't deal much cards, I was as they say
HIBERNATING. The guy I'm working for, 's 26....he said he'd been
watching T.V. all winter & ......
We're working on 42nd St/10-11th sts. Avenues. I'm supposed to be there
tomorrow in 3 hours. If they fire me, who they gonna get?
It's the Theatre district, Film. (Till this job, haven't been there in
years.....& WOW.... will ya look at what they're trying to do! "What'd he
THE IDEA BEING CELEBRATION of the use of Firecrackers in the
country of Doo Da. Something for the kids... Legal! Ah, but it's all now
well so compartmentalized. "AH, don't worry about that!...Let the experts
handle it. Like Dan Rather experting on the NEWS? Like Phil Donahue
experting on United Statesers too much fat time, & interest in
Perversions? "Look," I'm gonna say to my kids someday, I hope, "That's
horsemanure... the reason it don't smell's they eat grain. Mix it with that
leaf stuff. (& later) Now this batch is what the tomatoes eat!....got that?
Put a batch of it in that old tire, set it in a sunny place, & we're gonna grow
some of the best tasting tomatoes (with appologies to Dan Quale) you ever
Celebration is not every night. When rare becomes normal, then what do
they want. Travelers would bring back strange & un-usual things. Probably
from indigenous peoples & some of their stuff or/the food.
With mail art, in the Raw, artists are exposed to these images, ideas, &
thoughts poems directly. If we can't, do you think the Normal can? & lets
get the ambassadors not appointed by political connections or
contributions, but... hey, we are the ambassadors! SEND WHAT YOU
WANT.! People without a culture are more apt to....
Ruud, how long you wanna go on with this thing? This kid I met on the
train from Chicago, I'm working on the second "Mc" detective thing, sent
him 7 pages, & we haven't got him to Australia yet, but he called today,
saying maybe it's O.K. If the comic book goes a little long...... Said it was
probably right he didn't send the 50 Bucks till I finished the story, but he
just got out of school, & was starting on the picture part.
RJ :O.K. I can understand the hint. I will rap up this interview now and see
how it would fit in a printed booklet. Unless there was something I really
frogot to ask you?
reply on 23-8-1996
EFH:How about "How's the Fishin'?" Just got back from my cousins
wedding out west & saw batches of Kids, all related to me, went to a day of
Poderosa Ranch & Trout fishing. Kids are great. My Hat's off to Pawel
Petaz, C.T. Chew, Ed Varney, Pat Beilman, Anna banana & All the rest of
'em (stamp artists) that keep at it in the face of this wonderment. That's
Edward F. HIGGINS III
DOO DA POST
153 LUDLOW Apt.#6
New York , NY 10002-2229