Archives for posts with tag: letter

Things handmade and handwritten have a special appeal to me — perhaps it’s something about the humanness of their imperfection and scale. Who doesn’t like to find a real letter in the mailbox amidst the stack of bills and solicitations? Postmarked from France, I turned the envelope over in my hands and opened it with curiosity.

Written on stationery imprinted with two pretty leaves in the upper left and a return address from Suzanne Lopez in France, it was dated June 28, 2010, and read as follows:

Dear Ms. Sky Pape,

I am 16 years old and Art is my passion. I’m writing to you to express my admiration and my enthusiasm for your artistic way and for your works, your creations – I find them wonderful.

I would be very happy to have your autograph on the small card I’m sending you, for my ‘imaginary Museum’…

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
Suzanne

Suzanne Lopez letter

Sweet, right? For about a second, I was flattered.  It was just that part about putting my “autograph” on the small card, a blank, white index card, that had all my alarms going off in a deafening cacophonous din.  I am not saying I don’t have fans — it is a source of  great pleasure that I happen to know personally or virtually almost every kind soul who has collected or ever admired my work.  Clearly, this was a case for some detective work (i.e., Google), if there ever was one.

In a matter of seconds, I found my answer in an article by Sarah Hall from the Salisbury Post, dated June 27, 2008.  Ms. Hall, a composer, had received the same letter, essentially verbatim, from Suzanne Lopez – with the notable exception that back in 2008, Suzy was claiming to be 17, and “music is my passion.”  According to Ms. Hall, she heard from people from across the US and Europe who had received the same letter.

Having been a victim of identity theft in the past (a nightmare to be sure!), I had no intention of sending my easily scannable signature to anyone.  Still, though this reeked of being a scam, it seemed like a very expensive one, having someone write letters by hand and pay for postage? For what ends? What does a signature even mean anymore? Maybe this “imaginary museum” was just the pet project of some oddball who thought they needed to pass themselves off as a teenage girl in order to get the desired response.

It’s hard for me to imagine what this person would want with my signature.  It’s not as if my work is anything that could be easily forged and then have my signature appended to it for authenticity. (Though BEWARE, some work is indeed much easier to rip off — case in point: Lori McNee and the copycat artist.)

I’m no a stranger to fan mail, having been on the sending end more than once.  As a kid, I sent George Harrison  a flawlessly rendered pencil portrait of him, capturing the soulful gaze of the ‘spiritual’ Beatle.  I requested no reply and even though I never heard back from him, surely he treasured it — as sensitive as he was.  As a tween, already interested in pursuing art and busy working on honing the skills required for realistic representation of the world, I wrote to one of Canada’s eminent artists at the time, Ken Danby, asking for any advice he might share.  He wrote back, offering some encouragement and aphorisms about being an artist.  In recent years, I’ve even written to a favorite teacher from junior high school, telling him how his teaching  made a lasting impression on my life, only to hear back that when he received my note, he happened to have been carrying a photo of me and a fellow student in his briefcase for weeks, intending to show his current students how kids dressed “back in the day” when he started teaching.  There have been other letters sent from time to time.  It feels good to let people know that they have meant something to me — that they and their work, ideas, and experience have value and meaning.

In their efforts to shepherd their work into the world, artists tend to be particularly vulnerable to people trying to take financial and personal advantage of them. Many people know I like to do my bit to keep the USPS alive, but like everyone else, my bullshit-detector must always be on.  If Suzanne Lopez is a real person, I don’t mean to poke fun at you or be cruel.  However, I think I’ll save the postage, and just post my reply online:

Dear Suzanne Lopez,

I’m writing to you to express my appreciation for your ‘admiration and enthusiasm of my artistic way.’  A sincere letter of thanks or admiration can be a wonderful thing, and it’s always meaningful to know when someone has felt a connection with the work.  I am sorry, but in this age of crime and identity theft, it seems unwise and against my better judgment to provide you with a copy of my signature.

If you really exist and don’t want people to think you are a con artist or criminal, I’d suggest writing something individualized and sincere to every artist and composer to whom you reach out, refraining from lying about your age or falsifying any other information about yourself, and not asking for anything in return.  I hope you develop a passion for truth that exceeds your passion for art and music.

Sincerely,

Sky

If anyone else has received similar “fan” letters, please feel free to comment below!

p.s. There is a follow-up to this post you may wish to read here: https://skypape.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/not-so-fan-tastic-part-ii/

Dear Eva,

You seem the same as always, and being you, hate every minute of it. Don’t! Learn to say “Fuck You” to the world once in a while. You have every right to. Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder, wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, gasping, confusing, itching, scratching, mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, humbling, stumbling, rumbling, rambling, gambling, tumbling, scumbling, scrambling, hitching, hatching, bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting, nit-picking, piss-trickling, nose sticking, ass-gouging, eyeball-poking, finger-pointing, alleyway-sneaking, long waiting, small stepping, evil-eyeing, back-scratching, searching, perching, besmirching, grinding grinding grinding away at yourself. Stop it and just DO!

From your description, and from what I know of your previous work and your ability, the work you are doing sounds very good. ‘Drawing — clean-clear but crazy like machines, larger, bolder, real nonsense.’ That sounds wonderful — real nonsense. Do more. More nonsensical, more crazy, more machines, more breasts, penises, cunts, whatever — make them abound with nonsense. Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool. Make your own, your own world. If you fear, make it work for you — draw and paint your fear and anxiety.  And stop worrying about big, deep things such as ‘to decide on a purpose and way of life, a consistent approach to even some impossible end or even an imagined end.’ You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO! [The DO’s are drawn and decorated and very large.] I have much confidence in you and even though you are tormenting yourself, the work you do is very good. Try to do some BAD work. The worst you can think of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell.  You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work, so do it. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be.  But if life would be easier for you if you stopped working then stop. Don’t punish yourself. However, I think that it is so deeply engrained in you that it would be easier to DO.

It seems I do understand your attitude somewhat, anyway, because I go through a similar process every so often. I have an “Agonizing Reappraisal” of my work and change everything as much as possible = and hate everything I’ve done, and try to do something entirely different and better. Maybe that kind of process is necessary to me, pushing me on and on. The feeling that I can do better than that shit I just did. Maybe you need your agony to accomplish what you do. And maybe it goads you on to do better. But it is very painful I know. It would be better if you had the confidence just to do the stuff and not even think about it. Can’t you leave the “world” and “ART” alone and also quit fondling your ego. I know that you (or anyone) can only work so much and the rest of the time you are left with your thoughts. But when you work or before your work you have to empty your mind and concentrate on what you are doing. After you do something it is done and that’s that. After a while you can see some are better than others but also you can see what direction you are going. I’m sure you know all that. You also must know that you don’t have to justify your work – not even to yourself. Well, you know I admire your work greatly and can’t understand why you are so bothered by it. But you can see the next ones and I can’t. You also must believe in your ability. I think you do. So try the most outrageous things you can – shock yourself. You have at your power the ability to do anything.

I would like to see your work and will have to be content to wait until Aug or Sept. I have seen photos of some of Tom’s new things at Lucy’s. They are impressive – especially the ones with the more rigorous form: the simpler ones. I guess he’ll send some more later on. Let me know how the shows are going and that kind of stuff.

My work had changed since you left and it is much better. I will be having a show May 4 -9 at the Daniels Gallery 17 E 64yh St (where Emmerich was), I wish you could be there. Much love to you both.

Sol

[Letter from Sol Lewitt to Eva Hesse, April 14, 1965.]