ABOVE: Michael Sanzone, Paris Work #7 and #8, 2011, Wood, ink, collage, and vintage stamps 10 x 8 x 4.75 in. (each artwork)
His favorite place in Paris is the Musee de la Poste. Not the Louvre, nor the Grand Palais, not even a charming, hidden café that has the perfect cafe creme. For NYC-based visual artist Michael Sanzone, this unique museum fascinates and inspires his work, as does the postal system at large. Sanzone’s fascination with the postal system began when he and Brooklyn-based artist MP Landis began creating and exchanging ‘Mail Art’ pieces in 2008 when Sanzone was an Artist in Residence at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland. The two artists quickly established rules for the collaboration – each piece must be mailed at least four times with each artist adding to the piece at least twice. Once the series was complete, Sanzone created a hand-made wooden box to house the works, which was also passed through the US postal system. The works were sent between such locations as Scotland, Brooklyn, Cape Cod, Vermont, and Rome. For the artists, each ‘Mail Art’ collection serves as an esoteric melange representing a particular place and time in their life. While in Rome in 2010, searching for noteworthy postage for this ‘Mail Art’ series, Sanzone became increasingly fascinated by vintage European stamps with practically each one revealing a certain history of its corresponding country.
Sanzone was especially enchanted by the print quality of many of the stamps, each one a tiny lithograph or etching, as opposed to the digital printing process of today. During his holiday in Italy and France, Sanzone’s casual curiosity in stamp collecting soon became an obsession. His interest continued to grow, and the following year, in 2011, during a trip to Paris, he focused on creating a body of collage work focused on his Philatelic pursuits. A significant part of this work was the process of collecting his materials.
ABOVE: Michael Sanzone and MP Landis, Mail Art, 2012-13, Wood, ink, collage, and vintage stamps (msmts vary)
Visiting the street vendors of Paris and Rome, learning from them the history of each stamp, the origins of their collection, and many times the collector educated Sanzone about the city in which he was a vistor. These experiences organically evolved into an incredible series the artist simply refers to as ‘Paris Works,’ seen above. In addition to postage this collage series contains souvenirs and remnants from his time in Paris, such as photos, museum tickets, even a friend’s pack of cigarettes. Each collage ranges from ironic, to humorous, to romantic, such as the artist’s touching homage to Van Gogh, as Sanzone included fragments of wheat he collected from the wheat fields Van Gogh painted in Auvers-sur-Oise. Each collage is double-sided and held in a handcrafted wooden box, allowing each artwork to spin, revealing the recto and verso.
Sanzone’s current work continues to explore the elements of collage, finding inspiration in art historical material, vintage magazines, children’s toys, souvenirs, and the postal system- in essence, our collective human experience.
Kathryn Miriam is a writer on the subject of Art living in NYC.