(Above) Dame Mailarta, POSTAGE STAMP BARING THE ARTIST'S LIKENESS. Image courtesy of Studio J.

Gary Farrelly is granted an audience with Dame Mailarta - The Queen of Mail Art. From her headquarters at Studio J (The Dame's Portrait Palace) she is involved in the exchange of mail art with hundreds of artists in dozens of countries. Her Royal Highness (who has a postage stamp baring her likeness - see above) has agreed to answer some questions about her prolific and highly obsessive cultural practice.

Gary Farrelly: You call yourself the queen of mail art. Are you a monarchist?
Dame Mailarta: Indeed, a proud member of the Universal Queendom. Queens of the universe unite!! . . .

GF: What goes on in the Dames Portrait Palace?
DM: The Palace is an intoxicating place able to transport those that enter into a realm of play.  Where one can rediscover their inner child or perhaps take on their own Royal status - why not be Queen for a day.
Greeting you as you enter the Palace is the Mail Art Archives - A collection of mail art and postal ephemera from all over the world. Many People come through for tours, (the word is out) Change is constant - the gallery is always in flux. The walls now display portraits from over a thousand artists representing 40 countries.

GF: How long have you been proliferating your work via the postal system?
DM: A stamp licker for ART . . perhaps there’s something in that glue, but I’ve been hooked since my teens before I knew I was even part of a network of others of like mind. I joined the IUOMA (International Union of Mail Artists) in 2000 when I returned to Canada from living in New York.

GF: How many pieces of mail art have you handled over the years: a. inbound b. outbound?
DM: Inbound: I’ve filled the rooms of galleries for the Mailmania exhibits for nearly 10 years. I’ve never (ever) discarded a letter. I even have an archive of mail in the attic of my old home in Newfoundland. So the numbers are quite staggering I expect. I would easily say tens of thousands.
Outbound: Without a doubt I must be one of the greatest supporters of the postal system. I expect I’ve the licked that Queens head (stamp) more times than should be permitted. My budget for postage far outweighs my fashion budget.

GF: When it comes to mail art, I fundamentally prefer sending things unenveloped. Having the work handled and marked by the postal system is an integral part of the process. Do you agree? Do you have a preference: enveloped or unenveloped?
DM: Its what I consider Naked ART . . Yes! I say . . unless you are creating such a costume for that envelope not even the postal workers have an idea how to approach it.

GF: Which is more satisfying: giving or receiving [mail art]?
DM: My box is in a state of continual flux . . In/OUT In/OUT  . . The multi directional vortex causes such overwhelming pleasure I cannot show any favouritism. Though it’s because of the “In-Box” that others who visit the Palace get to share in the magic.

GF: Is your artistic practice an exclusively mail art practice?
DM: Depending on the day
I have a true LOVE of all things postal. Some might consider my passion for the mail somewhat obsessive tending on the hoarding phenom. But there is much more going in the ArtSpaces of the Palace . .

GF:Tell me something about your wider art practice.
DM: With an alter ego character I’ve developed, I tend to be more of a multi disciplinary artist in that I have worked in such diverse materials as stone, fabric, wood and wool. One room of the studio is where the hats I wear are created. Felting wool, crocheting and revisioning found objects. I am very much a sculptor of materials in space.

GF: Are there any pieces that you have received over the years that you treasure above all others?
DM: There are certainly those works that have been eye candy for those that are not familiar with mail art. Ceramic postcards that came from a potter in New Brunswick, rubber portraits, paintings on cigar boxes, glass, drift wood, a paint tin cover . . to a large pop bottle filled with small objects from Ficus Strangulensis, even just the name of the artist alone is poetic.

GF: What makes a good piece of mail art?
DM: Imagination and creative ingenuity. I often like it when the system gets a bit of a test, things are not as they once were . . postal regulations have changed, but I enjoy taking risks and seeing what can get to it’s destination. I once received a framed oil painting with stamps attached to the frame.

GF: Is there such a thing as bad mail art?
DM: I have only had a few works that have not seen the light of the studio walls. (It is archived) Since I am a member of the universal “LOVE” Club when something clearly reflects a value of hate I feel I have the right to let it remain in the dark. As a critic I have seen some amateur works, but that is a delight to see  . . it means someone on the road to their own art expression.

GF: What’s your drink?
DM: Most often a Ceylon Tea . . In the evenings a Newfie Screech, cola and lime . . . or a fine port.

GF: Do you believe in god?
DM: Praise Goddess!!

GF: Are you political?
DM: How can you be in this world and not be political in some way. There are still so many issues that need voices heard and actions taken. Mail Artists often addresses many of these issues.

GF: Are you working on any interesting projects at the moment?
DM: The Diamond Jubilee Mail Art Call is underway, the Portrait Project is an ongoing quest that keeps me busy.
The Portrait Trading cards are now being printed and a new display of visitors to the space is being mounted in one section of the studio. (I photo document all those that have visited the Palace over the years).

GF: Where will Dame Mailarta be in five years?
DM: Sipping Sherry while working on my autobiography and planning my next mail art show . . perhaps traveling the continent sharing Love and Laughter.

Gary Farrelly, Pickering Forest.

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