TrashPo-litically Korrect by Diane Keys (Elgin, Illinois, USA)

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Mail art by Diane Keys (Elgin, Illinois, USA)

I am surprised how often aspiring trashpoets ask: “Yes, but is it Trashpo?” They are unsure if their fledgling efforts fit the Trashpo definition. They must believe a set of rules exists somewhere and imagine there is a “correct” Trashpo practice. This is surprising, given that Trashpo – by design – is meant to be something anyone can do with minimal effort and thought. Given its intended simplicity, it is also surprising how intense, sometimes rancorous, discussions occur online about what Trashpo is and what it is not.

I have written numerous pieces about Trashpo, and they do not seem to have clarified or explained anything. So rather than add many more words, I will take this opportunity to show all the components of a mailing by Diane Keys, one of the great, acknowledged masters of Trashpo. Perhaps this can serve as a model for newer trashpoets who are still unsure of themselves.

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Of course, some pitfalls come with this approach. Just because Diane Keys created it, does that automatically make the work Trashpo? The answer is: “No.” Diane Keys creates art that is not Trashpo; however, I believe this mailing is an intentional example of her approach to Trashpo. Does this mean that Diane Keys’ approach to Trashpo is the only “Korrect” approach to Trashpo? The answer, again, is: “No.” Trashpoets have developed distinctive styles. The work of others should be considered as well. I would suggest Richard Canard, Mail Art Martha, Cleo, Rebecca Guyver, David Stafford, Wendy Rodgers, Dan Mouer, Jim Leftwich, Torma Cauli, among many others. Art is successfully taught using imitation, and “Imitation DK” can be an appropriate starting point.

At the heart of the mailing is an ephemera collection, a Trashpo staple. Collecting found material is, undeniably, at the core of Trashpo as is the idea of recycling:

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Reverse sides:

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The underlying concept of the mailing is, unfortunately, the failure of DKULTNY to properly honor DK’s birthday, which – if the full story can be told – involves me from being unfairly banned from involvement in a holiday gift exchange. This is the kind of issue that gets Trashpo labeled as “fluff” and not “serious.”

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Despite the problematic concept, many thanks to Diane Keys for sending this exemplary Trashpo!


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