About Art Goes Postal

If you sat down next to us at the bar what would we talk to you about?


Art Goes Postal is an internet archive of postcards from artists to artists about art.

Sometimes an image was the impetus for sending the postcard; sometimes a spark for the message—often about art, art-making/perambulations, art school, art world activity, or just life as art; sometimes an original work of art.

Postcards are a more creative, whimsical, personal way for artists to be in touch than their ephemeral replacements—emails and texts, blog posts, and tweets.

Got postcards? Share them before they are lost. Contact us.

How did this website start?

Mark Johnstone and Marshall Mayer had a conversation in 2012 about our respective postcard collections. We discovered how much we had forgotten about our nearly 40-year relationship until we saw each other's postcard collections (digitized and shared via the internet on this website). We were amazed! "What was I thinking?" or "I have no recollection of that!" were common reactions. We want to share our excitement, and we're pretty sure others will also be amazed by (and share) their similarly mediated relationships.

Why do this website now?

Once upon a time (in the 1970s), no one had personal computers, emails, cellphones, voicemails, or even answering machines—unless you were a rich geek. If you were a starving artist, on the other hand, a phone call was often too expensive and a letter (hand-written or typed) was just too time-consuming. Artists used postcards as a way of staying in touch, flicking out an idea—telling someone what was "on your mind"—when received a couple of days later.

A lot of us who used to correspond by postcard (the tradition started gaining steam in the 1950s) are approaching a point in our lives where we are getting rid of (or at least reorganizing) all the accumulated clutter. Rereading the postcards often stimulates us to reestablish long-dormant relationships. Who knows, we may have even exchanged a postcard or two in the past with someone you know. Certainly, the friends of our friends have...

We're not just interested in the postcards per se (though you can't find postcards like these now). Above all, we're interested in representing relationships that were mediated by postcards. These postcards between artists need to be shared now—they tell a great story. And we want to archive these postcards before we forget where they are.

What kinds of postcards are appropriate for this website?

Any postcard between artists that was actually postmarked, and are about art (or the context of being an artist), is appropriate to be archived on this site. There are a few exceptions: we're not looking for show announcements unless they have a personal message attached. Nor are we looking for "mail art" that is not personally written to the addressee (i.e., no mass mailings—we are not an archive for mail art). Finally, no holiday cards, thank you notes, or birthday wishes that aren't sent in an "art" context. Of course, there can always be exceptions to the exceptions, but what we're looking for most in the postcards we publish is evidence of a personal relationship between artists about their lives as artists.

Are you interested in publishing postcards only from photographers?

No! The founders simply had known each other because we were photographers way back when. We're interested in postcards to and from all kinds of artists, media, and subject matter. We interpret the arts broadly, including the visual, literary, and performing arts. The broader the better. Many of us would even include the culinary arts!

Can I archive my postcard collection on your website now?

While we scale up the website, we are archiving only those postcard collections from artists that already appear in the From: tab. This also supports the reason we are doing this website, to reinforce relationships. If you see your name there, send us your collection. Until we scale the website, exceptions to this policy can be made for artists that introduce this website to entirely new—and exceptional—social networks of artists.

How many postcards can I archive on this website?

At first, we are limiting each collection to 25 postcards. With our current capacity, it takes us approximately 8 hours to scan, transcribe and archive 25 postcards. We will contact participating artists when we are interested in archiving more of their collection. If you have more postcards that you want to archive right away and have access to a digital scanner, contact us and we will send you instructions on how to scan and transcribe your own postcards to be added to the website.

But wait a minute. Some artists have many more than 25 postcards archived here. What gives?

A few of us have many more than 25 postcards on Art Goes Postal. We started the website. Our postcards are intended to give you a feel for what we are interested in seeing in your collection. And we have a good start at inviting other artists to participate because of the postcards we've received (and archived).

If I have more than 25 postcards, which ones should I send you first?

Send us your favorites first, the ones that you want to show the rest of the world. It may mean that you have 25 postcards from one artist, showing the depth of the relationship (from their perspective!). Or you might have 25 different friends who sent you postcards, all of whom were also actively sending postcards to their network of friends. Of course, we'd prefer you send the latter so that we can grow the network. Finally, only send us cards that you have the email address for the sender. This is a postcard sharing website, and email is the only way we can let artists know that their postcard has been archived.

Who has intellectual property rights to the images published on the website?

By providing your postcards for us to digitize and archive on the website, we share intellectual property rights. You retain copyright to your specific postcard images (unless the front image is already copyrighted by someone else) while we retain the copyright of the page and website. By default, the use of the images and page is determined by a Creative Commons license. If you want a specific copyright/licensing language that is different from our default, please include it with your postcards and we will include it with your postcards when they are added to the website.

How are my images protected?

We scan your postcards at 2400 DPI for the highest fidelity, but they are archived on the website as 72 DPI images with a maximum size of 1024 pixels in any dimension. Most images are displayed at only 728 pixels for the largest dimension. Visitors to the website can copy these low-resolution images to their computer if they want to. The original high-resolution scan of your postcard is archived on our graphics workstation (and in our backup media), but it will not be used for anything other than generating a new low-resolution image for the website if needed. If you need more protection for your images, we suggest that you scan your own postcards and add a digital (invisible) watermark to them before sending the images to us for archiving.

How can I participate in Art Goes Postal?

If you are or were an artist (you needn't be a professional, just actively making art at the time the postcard was sent), and have a collection of postcards that were sent to you from other artists (same criteria), we'd be happy to archive your collection, as long as your name appears on the From: tab. Contact us and tell us a bit about your collection (what kind of artist you are/were, number of postcards, kinds of artists represented in your collection, etc.) and we will reply with specific instructions on how you can get your postcards published on this website. We'll also register you as an artist on this website.

How are artists registered on the website?

Only artists who have sent or received a postcard that is archived on the website are eligible for a free account on this website, as long as we have a current email address for them. (An artist who either sent or received a postcard that is archived on this website can also request an account for an artist referenced in a postcard in order to share the postcard—as long a deliverable email address is provided.) An account can only be created by the managers of the website, and only a full name and a deliverable email address are required.

What if I forget my password?

Go to the login form. There you will find a link to reset your password. Note that we have to have your current email address to send you your password (if you don't receive a reset password email from us immediately, either it is in your spam box or we don't have your current email address).

Where else will my postcards be published on the website?

When we digitize your postcards, they will appear in several places depending on how site visitors look for them: In a collection of postcards sent by you (under your personal collection in the From: tab); in a collection of postcards sent to you (under your personal collection in the To: tab); in chronological order of the postmark date in the Archive tab; and in portlets on the right of the website.

How can visitors find my postcards on the website?

Visitors can find your collections of postcards using the From: and To: tabs at the top of any page, or by searching for your name in quotes (e.g. "Marshall Mayer") in the search box (the search function will also display postcards where your name appears in the message text of the postcard).

Hey, a postcard was addressed to me too! Why am I not listed in the To: tab?

Many postcards archived on this website are sent to two people who are at the same address. We list the first person first in the To: field of our database, and that's why it appears that way in the To: tab. It's nothing else.

Will my postcards be found by others via search engines?

If your postcards are published (i.e., not private), search engines will index the title of your postcard (the From and To names), the date the postcard was postmarked (from the postcard's URL), and the content of the postcard as transcribed. People searching for terms contained in the index will be able to find your postcards using a search engine (though it will likely not appear at the top of the search results page until we are a very large and busy website). If your images are private, they will not be indexed by search engines.

What if I don't want others to see certain postcards?

Then don't send them to us. We'll only digitize the postcards that you send to us. If the message of your postcard is sensitive, there are ways to protect the privacy of your communications. See the Send Us Your Collection instructions.

What if I don't like how one of my postcards is reproduced on your website?

Occasionally, there are Moiré patterns that develop as a result of a conflict between the printing process used on the front of the postcard and the scanning process that we use to digitize it. It does not happen often, and there is nothing we can do about it.

What's the largest postcard you can scan?

Probably the largest postcard you can send using the Postal Service. But practically, our scanner will only handle an 8.5" by 11" card.

Can you scan postcards that are not flat?

Prior to 9/11, you could send just about anything that was called a "postcard" through the Postal Service. We will try to scan your 3-dimensional postcards, though we only have a 2-dimensional scanner. This means that the parts of your postcard that actually touch the scanner platen will be sharp, but the image quality rapidly deteriorates the more 3-dimensional your postcard is. You'll get what we got until we get a different scanner (if we ever do).

Can I redact parts of a postcard?

So that it cannot be indexed by search engines, we redact personally identifiable contact information if it is included in the text of a postcard. The original information is still readable by humans in the postcard images, however. If you do not want the public reading this information, the postcard should be redacted before you send it to us.

I sent you postcards, but not all of them were published. What gives?

We have guidelines for what we want to archive, see above. Generally, if your card was not archived it was because it did not explicitly meet our guidelines. Also note that while we may archive a postcard that may be in a gray area (usually we felt that the content of the postcard's message did not sufficiently refer to the context of being an artist), we may not publish it until you provide more context. We will notify you when we do not publish your postcard. If you have additional information to provide about it, it's always possible that we will reconsider when you provide additional context in the comments.

Who will scan my postcards, and can I trust them to keep private postcards confidential?

Marshall Mayer will scan and transcribe your postcards, and they will not be seen by anyone else unless they are published on the website. We promise. He has tight lips and thick skin. If you want someone else to scan and transcribe your postcards, just ask us.

How can I correct information that is on a postcard on your website?

We transcribe the text of postcards, but we occasionally make mistakes or can't read the original text. Please contact us if the transcription needs correcting (include a URL and the corrected text).

What if I don't like something that was said about me in the comments on a postcard?

Comments can be published on any postcard page, and are visible only to members who are logged in. All comments are moderated before they are published, but if you see something you don't like, please contact the commenter directly. Per our Terms of Use, we try not to get involved in these disputes. If you mutually agree that the comment should be retracted, contact us and we will retract it for you.

Can I remove my postcards from the website?

You can retract your postcards (including any comments that may have been made about the postcard) from public view at any time, as well as remove other artists registered on the site from seeing your images if you've given them review permissions.

If your images were publicly accessible, please note that because the website is automatically indexed on search engines, and search engine results may be cached by search websites to increase access speed, we can't guarantee that cached copies of your retracted postcard will be removed from the internet in a timely manner.

If I'm not a registered artist, how can I receive updates about the website?

If you give us your name and email address using the portlet in the right column, we'll subscribe you to the Art Goes Postal News, an occasional newsletter about new developments on the website. We will not sell or give your email address to anyone, for any reason, we promise.

Can I get updates to new postcards that are added to the website?

You can always come back and check the portlets on the right side of the website. Or you can use an RSS reader to subscribe to RSS feeds (all collections and portlets have their own RSS feed). The feeds will contain the title and text of the postcards, but you'll have to come back to the website (by clicking on an enclosed link) to see the postcard images.

How can I help you promote the website?

Imagine, Art Goes Postal GOES VIRAL! You can help.

Tell your friends about it! If they have a postcard on the site (usually because they sent a postcard that is in someone else's collection), send them the web address and invite them to participate.

If your artist friends are not represented here yet, it's easy for them to get started: have them contact us!

And even better, link to this website from other websites, especially if you have your own website (your linking—wherever it is—will make us much more visible to search engine results). That's how Art Goes Postal goes viral.

What is the process for scanning and archiving a postcard?

OK, let's get down into the weeds. We scan both the front and back of each postcard at high resolution. Then we convert them to low-resolution images suitable for publishing on the web. When archiving the postcard on the website, we add these low-resolution images to a page template. The template contains the following fields which we populate with data about the postcard:

  • Title: This will always be the name of the postcard sender(s) followed by the recipient(s).
  • Short Name: This is the URL (after http://artgoespostal.com/archive/) and is derived from the Title. The postmark date is also appended to the URL.
  • Description: This is the message of the postcard, transcribed by us. Text that is redacted or illegible is noted in [brackets]. If there is an individual artist reference in the text, we will include a first or last name in [brackets].
  • Lead Image: This is the front of the postcard.
  • Lead Image Caption: Copyright about the front image is included if any.
  • Image: This is the back (message) of the postcard.
  • Tags: This is used to note who sent and received a card so that we can sort them into threads.
  • Location: This is the city, state, and country of the postmark, as near as can be determined.
  • Publishing Date: This is the postmark date of the postcard, the date it was sent, as near as it can be determined.
  • Creators: This is the artist or artists who sent the postcard. If more than one artist, the first one is listed on the published version of the postcard.
  • Contributor(s): This is the artist or artists that received the postcard.
  • Sharing: These are the artists who are registered members of this website who have permission to retract, publish and/or share the postcard with other registered artists.

In addition to these required fields, there are some optional fields that are sometimes used:

  • Related Items: This is to indicate if a postcard is one of a series, and to list the other postcard(s) in the series.
  • Rights: This is used for special copyright or licensing of a postcard, per instructions from its owner.

Once we've entered all of the data for the postcard, we contact the owner to ensure that we've entered it correctly. Only after this proofreading and checkoff will we make any postcard public (though it may remain private at the option of the owner).

    Why are some postcards postmarked on January 1, when the Post Office is not open?

    We use January 1 when we can't read the postmark date on the original postcard. If the year cannot be read either, we make our best estimate (with the owner of the card) on which year the card was postmarked.

    How do you determine the copyright of the postcard's front image?

    Often you'll see a copyright notice for the front image of a postcard, just underneath the image.

    If it is a commercial postcard, we include the owner of the copyright if it is indicated (usually on the back). If not, then we generally give credit to the photographer/artists. If there is no artist, then we indicate the publisher. If there is no publisher or artist credit indicated on the card, then we assume that there is no copyright holder, and none is included.

    If the postcard is not commercially produced, i.e., the front image is created by the artist, they are indicated as the copyright holder.

    Does it cost any money to have my postcards archived on the website?

    No, this is a free service. At least for now. If the demand for scanning and archiving postcards increases beyond our capacity to voluntarily provide this service, we may have to develop revenue models to support the website. The most obvious solution is advertising by sponsors (such as galleries or museums) and/or low-cost annual subscriptions for artists to establish their archives.

    How do the website publishers make money on the website?

    We don't but see the previous answer.

    Can I scan my own postcards?

    We invite owners of collections to scan their own postcards. All postcards we scanned for this site are at 2,400 dpi, but can accept lower resolution scans (send us a sample to verify). The biggest problem is naming your files so as to not confuse us as we add them to the site (we are careful to match front to back for the same card!). Be careful to name each scan as front or back and sequence them numerically (for example, Artist01front.jpg goes with Artist01back.jpg, Artist02front.jpg goes with Artist02back.jpg, etc.) Let us know when you have a batch and we'll send you a link to uploaded them for free to our Dropbox.com account. We can accept either .jpg or .png files. Once we are done transcribing and uploading your postcards to the site, we'll ask you to review them for accuracy. Your cards will not be published until you verify their accuracy.

    What is my next step if I want to contribute postcards to the archive?

    Contact us! We'll send you instructions on how to Send Us Your Collection for scanning and archiving.

    How long does it take to get my postcards scanned and archived?

    That will depend on how many are in the queue, and if we are physically in Helena, MT (where our graphics workstation and scanner are). We will provide you a time estimate once we receive your postcards.

    Do you maintain a physical archive of postcards?

    No. We only maintain the digital archive. If you provide return shipping and insurance, we will return your postcards after you've approved our work to transcribe them. If you are a professional researcher or collector and need to see the physical postcard archived on our website, it's usually owned by the Contributor(s). Please contact them.

    Will you build a really cool website for me?

    While we're not looking for work, we'll entertain your ideas. We especially like social imaging projects.

    Believe it or not, I have just one more question.

    Contact us. But be forewarned that it may end up on this list!

      What is Art Goes Postal?

      Art Goes Postal is an internet archive of postcards from artists to artists about art.

      Got postcards? Share them.

      Artists All Over Art Goes Postal

      This whole experience (of reviewing old postcards) is a combination of nostalgia and nausea. Mark Johnstone

      Thanks for doing all this; I do have many more cards... Kenda North

      This is a really swell idea. Thomas F. Barrow

      I'm amazed at the traction your project is getting—it inspires my participation. Dave Freund

      This is SOOOO good....I love it.....totally. Lance Carlson

      Love this project, will need to do some serious and strategic excavations to find pc's... Ellen Manchester

      Very cool to see this. It takes me back! Mark Klett

      Good luck with your wonderful project. Sandy Hume

      That is a phenomenal website. Thanks! Alan Nakagawa

      Ok, my plans for the day are shot! I have to look through some old boxes in the basement. This is outstanding! Sue Robinson

      Refreshingly different. Jack Fulton

      Postcards To or From Artists
      Alan Klotz Alan Nakagawa Alan Trachtenberg Alden Spilman Alex Richman Alex Sweetman Alfred Appel Andrea Jennison Andrea Klotz Anita Stekel Ann and Jack Vernon Arthur Taussig Barbara Bradley Barbara de Genieveeve Barbara Houghton Barbara Jo Revelle Barbara Migdal Barbara Smith Ben Benschneider Beth Gafarian Bill Edwards Bob Figgis Bob Sauer Bonnie Lambert Brenda Mayer Burnett Miller Candida Finkel Carol Duncan Caroline Hinkley Cheri Hiser Cheryl Bailey Chris Gallagher Chris Wiedmann Chuck Forsman Chuck Hagen Clayton Spada Dan Loewenstein Darryl Curran Dave Freund David Barey David Hamilton David Jekel Debbie Tharp Dennis Staffne Diane Germain Ed Ruscha Ellen Land-Weber Ellen Manchester Ellen Van Fleet Ellen Whitney Eric Minuth Eric Paddock Eric Renner Frances Jones Frank Hall Gary Metz Graham Howe Gwen Widmer Harold Jones Heidi Cost Howard Junker Ian Green Irene Borger Jack Fulton Jacky Lavin James Bohnen Jamie Bennett Jay DiLorenzo Jenny Phelps Jerry Burchfield Jim Cannata Jim Houghton Jim Olson Jim Stone Jim Tittle JoAnn Verburg Jody Boyman Joe Deal John Baeder John Pfahl John Priola Judith Dunham Judith Golden Judy Coleman Judy Dater Karen Huntt Ken Abbott Kenda North Kris Lewis Lance Carlson Larry Sultan Les Krims Lew Thomas Linda Connor Linda Montgomery Lon Spiegelman Lynne Brown Maggie Sauer Marcia Ganales Mark Johnstone Mark Klett Mark Mayer Marshall Mayer Martha Madigan Mary Virginia Swanson Mary-Linn Hughes Mauro Altamura Maya Ishiwata Michael Ballou Michael Lesy Michael Peven Michael Smith Michaela Murphy Mike Mandel Miles Forst Mimi Weinberg Myrella Moses Myron Wood Nicholas Devore III Nicki Rousselle Pat Wellenbach Patty Hemmingway Seale Paul Berger Paul Briggs Paul Ginsberg Paula Crane Peter de Lory Peter Galassi Peter Zokosky Reed Estabrook Richard Notkin Rick and Suzy Titcomb Robbert Flick Robert Dawson Robert Fichter Robert Flynt Roberta Heinrich Roella Louie Roger Mertin Rusty Culp Ruth Thorne-Thomsen Sandi Fellman Sandy Hume Sarah Black Scott Engel Scott McLeod Serse Luigetti Seth Mason Sheila King Sheila Pinkel Sherry Wolf Sidney Jason Stuart Klipper Sue Robinson Susan Mogul Susan Morgan Susan Rankaitis Thos. K. Meyer Tim Bradley Tim Peek Tina Barney Tom Black Tom Breeden Tom Lamb Tom Swope Unknown Victor Landweber Vida Freeman Volkert Volkersz


      Other Artists "In the Text"
      Aaron Siskind Al Nodal Alan Sekula Alexandre Calder Andre Kertesz Andy Ostheimer Andy Warhol Anne Noggle Arlene Gould Arthur Knight Barbara Crane Barbara Kasten Barnett Newman Bea Nettles Beaumont Newhall Ben Bivins Bernard Plossu Beth Gallagher Betty Hahn Bill Jay Brassai Brenda Mayer Brian Botel Bunny Yeager Carlton Watkins Carlyn Tucker Carson Graves Catherine Lord Cathy Gauss Charles Desmaris Chauncey Hare Christo Chuck Forsman Clyde Smith Co Rentmeester Colorado Historical Society David Duncan Douglas David Johnson David Vestal Deb Gelet Deborah Turbeville Don Bottcher Don Nice Duane Michaels Edouard Manet Edwin Dickinson Eileen Berger Eileen Cowin Eugene Atget Evon Streetman F. Jay Haynes Frank Barsotti Frank Gohlke Frantisek Drtikol Fred Endsley Fred Lonidier Frederick Sommer Garry Winogrand Gary Emrich George Blakeley George Tice Gerhard Vormwald Giorgio de Chirico Greg McGregor Hank Lewis Harry Callahan Helen Brunner Helmut Gernsheim Hippolyte Bayard Hunter S. Thompson Imogen Cunningham Irene MacDonald Jack Burnham Jack Higbee Jacob A. Riis Jan Aronson Jan van der Marck Janice Belson Jean Honore Fragonard Jean Walther Jeff Schnackenberg Jeffrey Fuller Jim Dine Jim Hugunin Jim Hunter Joan Brown Joan Lyons Joan Redmond John Berger John Divola John Gutmann John Kacere John Klemmer John Schott John Szarkowski Jose Inez Herrera Joseph Beuys Judy Thorpe Karl Blossfeld Kathy Wren Kay Urry Ken Brown Ken Josephson L. A. Huffman Larry Burrows Lee Friedlander Lemasson Lewis Baltz Light Impressions Linda Anthis Man Ray Mark Chamberlain Marsha and Mike Burns Marsha Burns Martha Rosler Mary Donner Mary Ellen Mark Meridel Rubenstein Michael Bishop Michael Langenstein Minor White Nancy Howell-Koehler Nathan Lyons Newton Harrison Paul Bowles Paul Kubic Peter Bunnell Peter MacGill Philip Guston Pierre Boucher Purdy R. C. Bishop R. G. Zellers Ralph Wolff Rex Westen Richard Pare Robert Adams Robert Cummings Robert Frank Robert Heinecken Robert Motherwell Robert Rauschenberg Robert Sobieszek Ros Baughman Sally Eauclaire Sam Wagstaff Sam Yanes Sandy Ostertag Saul Steinberg Shelby Lee Adams Stacey McCarroll Cutshaw Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities Susan Larsen Ted Solotaroff Ted Thomas Theresa Luisotti Thomas Barrow Thomas Gainsborough Thomas Hart Benton Timothy O'Sullivan Tod Papageorge Tom Mawn Tom Peterson Tom Steiger Underwood & Underwood Van Deren Coke Victor Schrager Vidi Lange Vincent Van Gogh W. J. Carpenter Walker Evans Wayne Lazoric Weegee Wesley Mayer William Henry Jackson Wilson Meader Wynn Bullock Yoko Ono


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