M-L: As a member of the Recycling Mail Art group at IUOMA-Ning, Rain Rien Nevermind [a New York Correspondence School veteran] took an interest in you and your work. Some say he was even a mentor to you. Looking back, was your involvement in the Recycling Mail Art group at all formative for you?
DK: In my journey to find kindred spirits, it naturally evolved that I connected with artists like the Nevermind, John and Mehrl Bennett, Richard Canard, Ruud Janssen, Andrew Topel, Tara Verheide, Reid Wood, among others. Many of these people have roots in Ray Johnson’s New York Correspondence School, the “Old” Fluxus, Neoism, visual and concrete poetry. Others are working in that continuum even if they didn’t experience it directly. I did not know this; it was a natural affinity.
“Many of these people have roots in Ray Johnson’s New York Correspondence School, the ‘Old’ Fluxus, Neoism, visual and concrete poetry. Others are working in that continuum even if they didn’t experience it directly. I did not know this; it was a natural affinity.”
I made a found object collage dedicated to Rain Rien that had part of a found sign with the word ‘rain’ in it. I submitted it to a local show on the theme of ‘WATER,’ and I remember the look I got when setting it down alongside the meticulously drawn ocean landscapes and other ‘hotel art,’ as I judged it, that had been submitted by other participants. Yet the online community appreciated it. Rain Rien and his ‘Cow Ear Muffs’ group drew me in, because I love the absurd, parody, non-sensical.
I met DeVillo Sloan by commenting in a Cow Ear Muff discussion thread. He also had a love of creating fictitious, absurd concepts, fake mail art movements and parody. He was talking about the Deletists. Somehow bouncing off of his playful posts, I started a thread about fundraising for a non-profit that would hold funerals for road kill and find alternative sourcing of road kill. I don’t know if mentor is the right word, but I had mad admiration for Rain Rien and felt validated by his unconscious processes.
Diane Keys during the Clothesline Project in Elgin (circa 2010)
M-L: You attended FluxFest 2016 in Chicago. Were you involved in any performances? Did you meet any artists who made an impression on you?
DK: I was finally able to attend FluxFest this past year, something I had wanted to do ever since I first learned about it. It was made easier by the fact that they were meeting at Northwestern University’s’ Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art for the Charlotte Moorman exhibition. We did Fluxus street performances, and I had decided to bring the entire Trashpo mail art show that I had curated and exhibited at the Elgin City Hall and Green Fest. I brought all the amazing entries in a box and dumped the contest on the ground and let everyone take what interested them so the show could get a second life and be viewed by more people. They were all very encouraging.
I had also decided to do a performance by picking up trash and presenting it to others to see if they considered it art or trash. Many took items to make art out of. I ‘met’ Jonathan Stangroom when he walked by me as I was digging through an on-campus trashcan. He was wearing a bowler hat, so I knew he was a Fluxus person, but he also seemed to not react to my racooning through garbage in broad daylight.
M-L: You are part of a generation of mail artists that incorporates the internet in their work. You are known as an internet persona as much as a postal persona. How has this impacted your work?
DK: I have created other fictitious worlds. One in particular took off unexpectedly like Dkult, when I was first on the internet, that had nothing to do with art and everything to do with parody and writing. It was my way of working through the effects of living in a world that sexualizes and reduces females. The persona of being a cult leader and trash enthusiast also has some very personal roots in pain. It has impacted my work as I have gotten more deeply involved in making Trashpo than I probably ever would have imagined.
“The persona of being a cult leader and trash enthusiast also has some very personal roots in pain.”
I don’t actually use much trash in my art these days. I go through phases of using trash and working with ink. I never start with a blank slate. I have white paper, but stain it with coffee, tea, or ink. I make my art in batches and will do this with multiple sheets at a time. This gives me a basic jumping off point to build on. A whole lot of times, it ends up in the trash, but I wait for the ‘happy accidents,’ patterns that form organically that I could never create intentionally.
Catalog cover of one of the first exhibitions including work by Diane Keys