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The referenced book i have scanned and it is viewable. There are other book copies available from booksellers, though none I believe are signed editions that include a stamp. I have included a couple of original stamps recently obtained from a shared successful “mailing in Mexico” as stamp images.
The Stamp Art & Postal History of Michael Thompson & Michael Hernandez de Luna – Bad Press Books
Signed by Michael Thompson with an original stamp
$45 plus shipping
Also available: Framed original stamp art. A page or remnants of a page of perforated stamps with a canceled stamped envelope, framed, are available for purchase.
Please inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org
An excerpted explanation of Michael's experience from the book.
The Stamp Project and its Consequences by Michael Thompson, Chicago, Illinois
The idea of making stamps was the result of a missed opportunity. I read an article concerning the publication of the Doonesbury comic strip in the form of four postage stamps, complete with perforations, denominations, and "USA" printed on each panel. Readers, it turns out, had carefully cut out the panels, perforations and all, pasted them on envelopes, dropped them into a mail box, and they were delivered with cancellations. It seemed a brilliant joke, a subversion of the system of taxation, with someone else's representation. It was a wonderfully inappropriate act but one that I missed and promptly forgot. Weeks later I was leafing through a popular weekly news magazine and came upon another example of a faux stamp. This one represented Bugs Bunny, again complete with cartoon perforations, the 25 cent: denomination, the "USA," and the ears extending beyond the perforations. Perfect... fate was giving me an opportunity to participate in this wonderful gag. I carefully cut around the perforations and the ears, affixed the "stamp" to an envelope, addressed it to myself and dropped it into a mail box. Two days later it was delivered, complete with a cancellation. I was hooked. What else could be used as postage, I wondered?
I began appropriating small, stamp-sized images, sometimes placing the picture on top of another stamp to give the impression of perforations. I would use Christmas seals, adding the denomination and "USA" with press-type letters. A miniature deck of nudie playing cards provided a salacious tint to the fun. Matchbook covers proved to be the right size so I began collecting old interesting matchboxes, soaking off the labels, gluing them to envelopes, applying the Letraset letters right onto the image and dropping it into the mail. The first few years of the project were confined to these one-of-a-kind stamps, the images determined as much by their size as by any other factor.
Michael Hernandez de Luna joined the undertaking in 1994 and suggested creating sheets of stamps using a color copier, a development that added a new conceptual boost to the scheme. Multiples increased the chances of success and provided that wonderful matrix of Pop Art, the grid and repetition.
The post office processes millions of pieces of mail daily. Their size and automation have been an important factor in the success of our project. Still, the rate of our success amazes me. We offer these stamps for consideration, into the jaws of this sophisticated corporation which tags their stamps with fluorescent inks specifically to identify fraudulent stamps. They have in place procedures for detecting bogus stamps, reused stamps or insufficient postage: these are stamped return to sender for additional postage. I can count on one hand the number of envelopes that have been returned for insufficient postage or charged postage due at the other end. It is certainly possible and probable that given the lengths to which we go to obviate the nature of our stamps that there is occasionally a collaborative aspect to the project. When an envelope arrives festooned with cancellations, commemorating, for instance, large mammary glands, does that argue a willing participation? It certainly gets one wondering.
Though there have been exceptions to that rule. I once made a Norwegian stamp using a reproduction of a painting by Gustave Courbet called The Origin of the World. It was painted in 1866 and offering a rather frank view or a woman's genitalia. When the letter to which it was attached was posted in Oslo, the Postal Authorities discovered it, took offense and contacted Postal Authorities in Washington, who in turn contacted the Chicago Field Office, who contacted me. They knocked on my door one day. I was expecting Chicago Building Inspectors that day to do an annual inspection of my studio and when I opened the door one of the two rather officious individuals asked if I was expecting them. Thinking that they were the city inspectors I answered that, yes, I'd been expecting them. They informed me that they were U.S. Postal Inspectors and were interested in discussing my stamps: could they come in? Disregarding the advice repeatedly tendered by my attorney, my overriding curiosity prevailed and I opened the door. The visit lasted over an hour.
They were young, a man and a woman, armed but disarmingly casual, possessing a generous sense of humor and an extensive knowledge of the stamp project. They asked to see the work. As they looked through the books I keep the stamps in, they mentioned how they had versions of this or that stamp, chuckled at another and tossed a question at me concerning my friend and fellow traveler Michael Hernandez de Luna. The atmosphere ebbed between their seemingly weary chagrin to ominous threat, alternating from conviviality to consternation. They referred to their attendance at all our previous shows, to their burgeoning collection of our work, and finally to the consequences of continuing to produce the work, which included possible violations of the following federal laws, as defined by the United States Code: 18 USC 501 (counterfeiting), 18 USC 502 (postage and revenue stamps of foreign governments), 18 USC 1463 (mailing indecent matter on wrappers or envelopes), and 18 USC 1725 (postage unpaid on deposited mail matter). Additionally, I was informed that I was in possible violation of Illinois state law, 720 ILCS 5/16-3 (theft of labor or services or use of property). The meeting ended with the delivery of a Statement of Voluntary Discontinuance to be signed, notarized and returned via the enclosed stamped and addressed envelope. Needless to say, I now refer all official communications to my attorney. This was a project that employed all the tools of tradecraft: couriers, cut-outs, drops,aliases, spurious documents, disguise, safe houses...and we too were hiding in plain sight, our stamps rarely subtle, often oversized, begging discovery. We flaunt our excesses.
When I stumbled upon the notion of making stamps, I had no idea what would become of these perforated bits of paper or the thorny issues that would arise from this mere parlor game. I would discover a landscape replete with federal and state statutes, Postal Inspectors posing as patrons at art openings and electronic sensors designed to ferret out fraudulent intent. The idea which began as a lark became a campaign. My appreciation of the ramifications of this hobby and the realization that, as official documents, stamps provided an opportunity to propagandize, co-opt the "line," insert my own message and have it canceled, and delivered, grew proportionally with the success of the work.
The final irony about this project is the fact that both Hernandez and I have been awarded Artists Fellowships by the Illinois Arts Council in recognition of our outstanding work and commitment within the arts, and we were granted those awards on the basis of this project. The cynic in me allows that the state is just giving us the rope to hang ourselves, that while one agency within the state is enabling the project, another is preparing to prosecute us. It's the classic good cop, bad cop scenario and, as with most continuing stories, you'll have to tune in to see how this one ends. The following pages portray an elaborate subterfuge of global proportions.
Please email email@example.com with any questions.
Note: My Ad Categories selection (left column) redirects to only specific items, i.e. Other Artists will redirect to my personal collections art listings only.
Note: Last two images are erector set erotica sculptures as an indication of future exhibition of Michael's creative sculptures, paired with Robert Maker.
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