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Artist's Statement 2000 Artist's Statement 1997 Why Mail Art? Lesson Plans I Pledge Allegiance Too... Letters the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Didn't Print Across the Internet Revolution No. 9 - The Art of Play and the Joys of Noise


August 1997

I like to use symbols in my art work. I believe one of the reasons for this is my life long fascination with hardware and found objects. When I was a child I remember my Dad constantly stopping to pick up any bit of hardware lying on the ground and putting it in his pocket. He would take these bits home and keep them in a big box. From time to time when he had to fix something he would root through the box and find a piece he could use. I would hang around his workbench and he would turn over his box of bits to me, along with tools, glue, and blocks of wood. I would have a great time making stuff out of this "junk".

I was also fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood full of construction sites. Who needs playgrounds and toys when you have pools of muddy water, piles of dirt, fields of weeds, and freshly excavated earth to play with? Objects long buried, such as wires and unidentified metal bits were always appearing in the soil. Sometimes I could tell what they were, and often I couldn't. I used to make up stories about what they were and how they got there. Once on a Girl Scout camping trip I started an "excavation" behind the mess hall and soon had all of my little friends digging up the ground. We found some bones and I was thrilled, convinced I had made some kind of significant scientific discovery. I brought the bones to school and showed them to the teacher. She gave me a book with pictures of animal skeletons and told me to see if I could match the parts I had found to one of the skeletons in the book. I found a match all right. The parts that for some reason I had convinced myself were pieces of a rare prehistoric badger skull were actually the pelvic bones of a domesticated turkey. Someone had probably just tossed an old turkey carcass out the back door of the mess hall or something ordinary like that. Bummer! It was a lot more fun when I didn't know what the bones were!

When I started taking art classes in college I became introduced to the idea of found objects in art, something that appealed to me right away. I also started doing Mail Art, a conceptual kind of art with roots in Dadaism. Found papers, randomness, collage, and collaborative projects are all characteristics of Mail Art. Practicing Mail Art made me loosen up and learn to use the random in art. From using actual found objects in my work I evolved my own symbols, often based on bits of hardware or junk, to use with them and in place of them. Some I use for years, and I'm always adding new ones from time to time. I'm sure they mean something different to each viewer, or nothing at all, just like junk I used to dig out of the ground.

To this day I'm fascinated not only with junk but with ruins, whether they are hundreds of years old or just a decade or two. I love to look for traces of the people who came before and clues about what they did there and why. And make up stories if I don't know. I like not knowing.

Copyright© 1996-2003 by Carolyn Hasenfratz

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