Letters As Art





Art is defined the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power; or, as the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance. From reading the two of these definitions one is left with a sense that - yes, poetry and novels, these are art - but can you imagine for a moment that handwritten correspondence between to people is also art?

Letters have always been something that fascinates me. When I was younger my aunt, who travelled constantly, would send me postcards from where she may have been, and I would spend hours turning the thick piece over in my hands. Decoding her handwriting, looking at the postage - seeing all the places it had to go through before it ended up in my mail slot here in Boston.
The mesmerizing thing about letters is that they can be there when the person physically can’t be. They truly carry a weight of their own, by the time you've picked it up from your mailbox or wherever the postman decides to leave it, taken it through the halls of your home, to your desk or bed, you have invited that person in. That letter is a diplomat from a far (or near) place on a mission to an unknown land which happens to be your hand.
In a world ruled by text messages, emails, and Twitter DMs, to truly be able to understand the tone of someone's words is impossible. But through handwriting you can see what people really think of you: they will use capital letters they are angry, make long metaphors when they are anxious. You think, who has time to sit down and write when they could just send a quick text? Text messages are free (for most of us). One of the key things that is different about letters is they actually cost money - that is why they mean so much. Letters cost time and 49 cents to mail (not including the envelope). Letters mean more to the receiver because they know it cost the sender time and money to create.
Postcards are almost an entirely different matter. They have limited space so every word counts. There is no way to backspace, no second chance - what you wrote is what sticks (unless you wanna buy another postcard). No room to drone on about meaningless things; nevertheless, the receiver of a postcard gets the same giddy feeling when it comes through their door.
Writing letters is timeless - they will transcend our lifespan into those of our children’s (or of those you bought in a box from Boomerangs). Letters are what protect our memory, and I just hope that those I have written to will protect mine. In a world where the virtual is all encompassing, take a step back and put pen to paper. Rethink how you define art - think of it more as “Anything related to creative activity”.

Text: Al Spruill
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