Monday, August 15, 2011

Rural Mail, Fairbanks, Alaska

Acrylic on 9x12 canvas sheet, without matt/frame
Available through DPW gallery/auction
To purchase/bid, click here.

This is my second submission for this months VPO in Fairbanks, Alaska. When I found this view in Google, I just knew I had to paint it. The original link is here.

I have a fascination with rural mail boxes and have decided to do a small series of them, starting with this one. I see countless mailboxes out at the road's edge when I travel to our lake home in NY state. And for some reason, I am drawn to them - I need to photograph them. And also, now, to paint them.

They represent to me, an ingenious solution to a simple problem. Fact is that rural living, unlike city or suburban living, does not have houses near the street edge. In fact, some houses are back so far on the property that they aren't even visible from the road. Only a car-wide path exists through the trees as it meanders back to the homestead.  Homes in the country, or in rural settings, are further away from each other. Some folks can count their neighbors as being 1 or 2 miles away! Others are closer, but still separated by an acre or 2 (or 3). And so, for these reasons, rural mail delivery is to mail box - and not to the house itself. These mailboxes are usually grouped in certain areas with many different owners. This helps the mail delivery as the person need only go to one location to service multiple addresses. To travel to each home, each farm, each person would be so time consuming - that mail would become a weekly event rather than a daily (or every other day) event.

But I feel the need to paint these settings now, as I'm afraid they are representative of a lifestyle that is slowly waning. With the internet & web, the amount of paper that is mailed is reducing. After all, the option to receive electronic bills already does exist as does internet banking. No need to receive the bill in the mailbox - no need to write & mail the check out to pay it. People are more likely to send an email to someone rather than write a letter & mail it. E-cards for birthdays, anniversaries and any other event can be sent via the web, eliminating the mailing of a card to a mailbox. And every mail-order catalog that arrives in a mailbox is also available online. True, anything bought or ordered needs to be shipped, so packages will always need to exist - but I know some stores now offer the ability to shop online & designate a store where you will pick them up (saves on shipping charges I suppose).

Now I don't think that "mail" as we know it is going to disappear overnight. The Post Office is already seeing the volume subside and I believe it will continue to disappear - a little more each year or so. But I also think that when today's children, who have grown up with the internet & cell phones & email since almost day 1, when they become the adults & parents of the world - I think they will embrace the electronic "mail" more-so than today's adults & parents. And in doing so, paper "mail" will travel down the road to nostalgia. Much the same as the practice of going, in person, to the local grocery store to pay your utility bills did from my own parents youth. Evolution it's called.

Well, evolution took away the "egg-man", the "milk man", even the Good Humor man from my youth. Now it is taking aim on the mail-man and the rural mailbox! And so I paint them, because I need to capture them & record their scenes - because they are destined to become nostalgic.


AutumnLeaves said...

Fabulous post and a most gorgeous painting, Nancie! I wax nostalgic more often than not so I totally empathize with all you've said. Even I remember the milkman days. My parents used to get milk delivered up until I was 8. I don't remember seeing them after that. I personally love living rural and had I the money, it would absolutely be how I would live. I love the distance between homesteads, the fields, the trees...

Virginia Floyd said...

Love your idea of painting mailboxes, Nan. I believe you are right about mail disappearing. Just yesterday I spent time going through a box of mementos that we moved to the new house. There were letters that my husband's father wrote to him when he was stationed in Japan after WWII. Reading those letters written in his father's handwriting evoked memories that we won't get from saving emails.

Anonymous said...

There's such a special quality to the light in this and Foxtail. I can't put my finger on it, but it really catches my eye.

Good work.


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