In mid-2020, as he was recovering from a near-fatal case of COVID-19, Mark Mothersbaugh found himself bristling at some of the anti-Postal Service rhetoric being bandied about at the time.
“We weren’t hearing anybody speaking up for the Post Office, so we said, ‘Well dang it, we’re gonna do it,’” said Mothersbaugh, best known as front man for ’80s new wave band Devo.
By “we” he meant himself and fellow artist-musician Beatie Wolfe, and what they did about it was create Postcards for Democracy, a collective art project/show of solidarity that has culminated in an exhibit now on display at Florida Southwestern State College in Fort Myers.
Taking part was simple: All that was required was to create, or even simply recycle, a postcard and send it to the project’s address. (And of course, to buy stamps. That was Job 1.)
From there, the postcard was uploaded to the Postcards for Democracy website and saved for possible use in the exhibit.
Tens of thousands of people around the world answered the call.
Many months later, Wolfe and Mothersbaugh curated the submissions to create the exhibit, which is running through Aug. 8 at the college’s Rauschenberg Gallery.
The miniature artworks show that “people do care about and love their Post Office,” said Fort Myers Officer in Charge Phillip Fleener.
The topics range from the importance of the Postal Service to Black Lives Matter, climate change, feminism and much more.
“We’ve both been very touched by all the contributions — the art, poems, personal stories, sentiments,” Wolfe said, pointing out that the project can be viewed as a sort of time capsule of quarantining during the pandemic, a “physical time capsule or portal in an increasingly digital age.”
For Mothersbaugh, that physicality makes mail all the more precious. “The Postal Service delivers tangible objects, not meaningless emojis,” he said.
Mothersbaugh has been a postcard aficionado for most of his life.
“I first started mailing and sending postcards in the form of art back in the late ’60s,” he said, describing how he was inspired by Dadaists who required their art to be transferred physically by mail.
In fact, “I used to want to deliver mail as a kid,” he said. “But that was before I discovered the Beatles.”
When asked if he had a message for USPS workers, Mothersbaugh said, “Keep up the good work. There’s a sense of security and connectedness that comes from seeing a postal worker making their rounds and keeping us all a part of the bigger picture.”
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