Pushing the Envelope--in a Good Way

Pushing the Envelope: Art in the Time of Pandemic

PULP Gallery (Holyoke, MA)

Michael Manlese

These days, two things strike me. The first is the way creative people find ways to keep their creative juices flowing and (hopefully) make a little money in the process. Actors offer online lessons, musicians hold house concerts for tips, and writers have taken to social media to publicize their works.

I’ve also noticed how I have begun to pay increased attention to small things. To get to the point at hand, I recall that in the 1970s a Montana company called the Wretched Mess News used to sell whimsical envelopes that resonated with countercultural values. Of course, folks also made their own mailers out of glossy magazines and proceeded to decorate them or illustrate a conventional envelope.

Maryanne Benns
These two threads come together in the perfect little exhibit for our times. The PULP Art Gallery in Holyoke has a wonderful display of envelope-sized art—some of it sent under separate cover and others that are literal envelopes delivered via U.S. Mail. COVID-19 has sent us scurrying into isolation, but the PULP Website (address above) is actually a very good way to see the works if you can’t get to Holyoke or are nervous about public spaces. (Holyoke infection rates remain high, so count me among those not ready to venture to PULP’s Race Street gallery.)

Let me return to why online is perhaps a better way to “see” the art. When gallery co-owner Dean Brown announced the idea for the exhibit, he was swamped with submissions from both locals and artists spread across North America. Seeing this much small art cheek-by-jowl in one space runs the risk of overwhelming viewers. It can produce what I call the kaleidoscope effect—bright swirls and shapes that meld into each other in an oh-wow fashion, but which also become indistinguishable. Viewing them online slows us down in good ways. Each work—in alphabetical categories though not alphabetical within them—displays individually. You can linger over those you particularly like, blow them up for detail, and move on if the style isn’t your cup of tea.

Gail G
Scooter fein
As for style, you name it and it’s in evidence. There are plenty that evoke the psychedelia vibe of the 60s and 70s. These (gulp!) project a throwback feel that makes them the “vintage” selections of the exhibit. Others are absurdist, surrealistic, architectural, representational, abstract, geometric, and cartoonish; themes include nature, cityscapes, still life, animals, home–you name it. Quite a few embody themes for the pandemic such as fear and hope; others are literally the work of children with all their charm and naivete. Media include ink, watercolor, crayon, collage, pencil, and more. Locals might see similarity between the work at PULP and that in Northampton’s Anchor House of Arts. Likewise, they might recognize names such as Mark Brown, Amy Johnquest, Tekla McInerney, and Michael Tillyer. (Full disclosure: Tekla is a friend.) But another great thing about an online exhibit is that you need not know a soul to discover those with whom you share aesthetic kinship.

I have posted a few images—mostly chosen at random—to whet your appetite. Enough from me; log on, dive in, and enjoy. If you see something you like, just $70 buys it and all proceeds go to the artist.

Rob Weir

Tekla McInenery 

Eliza Lanzi

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