Wow guys! What a crazy week and a half! This month is my craziest of the year by far, I just gotta keep chugging along. Have a lot on the docket, but it's all good and exciting and lots of new things :).
Let's start with the first day of the month! The Letter Project show on Friday night!
Setting it up was fun :) I took my time and really enjoyed it. It was my first installation, so I was in unchartered territory, but I had what I wanted it to look and feel like in mind and just set to it! I used push pins to put everything up, and for the letters that had been written on both sides of the paper, I was able to put them in plastic sleeves and pin them all together so that you could leaf through them like a book that was attached to the wall.
I spent a day pinning things up and came back the following day to write a little story about the letter project across the top of the installation in masking tape and marker. It sounds terrible but it really looked right at the end (you'll see in some pictures ahead)! All forty letters fit in the installation, they were arranged in the order in which i received them and they all shone in their own way. I also stuck little stickers around with arrows and comments to make sure that people wouldn't miss details that I thought were really special from letters, photographs, postcards and envelopes.
Lastly, I set up two tables. The first had a whole bunch of multicolored flashcards, pens and the list of original letter project questions, as well as a little sign that read "PARTICIPATION STATION: Please use a flashcard and pen to anonymously answer a question or two!". The second table had a little sign that read "Leave your answers, confessions, jokes, stories (etc.) here!".
Here are some photos from before the opening began:
People started to arrive a little after 7 and peruse. It definitely took people a second to get into the stride of a show that was visual to a certain extent but not in the usual way... The letters did look really amazing all together on the wall with their variety of paper types, paper sizes, handwritings, ink colors, envelops and occasional odds and ends. Some people dove right in at the beginning, others bounced around from letter to letter. Some people went through and everyone's answer to the same question. Some people would read one entire letter, and then another one, and another, randomly. It was so amazing to hear people chuckling and flipping pages, calling friends over to read one thing or another, pointing things out on the wall and whispering about them to friends as they read. I loved talking to people about the individual stories after they'd read through a few letters, too. I've never been able to share these stories with anyone, they've always been these little secrets of sorts. And I feel so tenderly toward them, and like I need to take good care of them. They feel like little treasures that have been entrusted to me and I finally get to show them off!
Here are some shots from the opening in action:
As you can see, things got pretty wild at the end there, lol!
Amazing night, all in all. Had some really really wonderful conversations with people and was so SO touched by people's comments and the fact that so many folks participated. I can't tell you all how thrilling it was every time I looked at the table and saw people writing on flashcards - it was the most thrilling thing ever. People putting themselves out there! It's always so comforting and impressive!! The first three flash cards came from three 17 year old girls and I'll never forget that. They really were the bravest. I was on the brink of writing a few flashcards in fake different handwritings just to get the ball rolling but it wasn't necessary.
I'll close with a typed-out version of what was written in the masking tape above the installation in case you aren't familiar with the story behind the letters:
"In June of 2013 I tried to send 26 random people handwritten questions via snail mail, to their homes, and asked them to write back with the answers. Nobody wrote back. I was invading people's space. It was a humbling experience. After a month I was ready to give it another shot. I put the questions up on tumblr. I was going to attempt to use the internet to get people to write letters. Good old fashioned letters. It worked! Between tumblr and Facebook and the way the wide web works, 40 people sent me letters between July 2013 and July 2014. They sent the letters to a P.O.Box I opened at the post office on the Downtown Mall here in Charlottesville.
I numbered the envelopes as I received them, and this is how they are displayed for you, here. You can see the numbers on the envelopes, usually in the lower left-hand corner. The rules were quite simple: - Please write your answers out in pen. No typing. - If possible, please write the question, too. - If a question makes you uncomfortable feel free to leave it blank, or say so. - Feel free to use as many or as few words as you'd like. - This will be an anonymous project, whether you write your name or not. - If you give me a return address, I will send you a thank you note, and if I get a show together I'll send you an invitation. - Be as creative as you'd like with the envelopes, paper, pens and send along extra things too, if you want!
I did send everyone who participated a thank-you note (or letter, really). Some of them became my penpals.
Every person who sent me a letter for this project with a return address received an invitation to this opening. It was so incredibly exciting to finally tell them that I'd found a venue in which to share their stories. I only wish I could make this a traveling show so more people could partake in the comfort, smiles, tenderness and consideration that these beautiful letters bring. If you participated in this project, I can't thank you enough for being vulnerable, beautiful, honest, fun, sad, cynical, uncomfortable, silly, trusting, philosophical, witty, intelligent, precise, and always human.
Thank you for reminding me why I love humans so much.
p.s. Thank you internet. "