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The mysterious arrival of an unusual letter

21st century
12.7 cm x 17.8 cm (5 in. x 7 in.)

Cynthia Daignault (Baltimore, Maryland, 1978 - ) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Oil on linen mounted on cardstock (recto); Gummed pressure-sensitive labels and U.S. postage stamps on cardstock (verso)
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Allison and Terry Montesi, 2016
Accession Number: 2016.45

During a three-month road trip through the United States in 2015, Cynthia Daignault made 180 landscape paintings on postcards. Although the individual works are modest in scale, the artist conceived the series as a “monumental portrait of America” and has described the project as “one part field notes, journal, diary, and mail art.” Daignault made every painting on site and added the type-written messages on the back of each postcard after returning to her New York studio, drawing from a journal kept during her trip. The seven here depict American rivers, from the Rio Grande to the Susquehanna.

The title, “The mysterious arrival of an unusual letter,” refers to a poem by the late poet Mark Strand and hints at the project’s unconventional premise. Through a website created for the project, Daignault invited anyone interested to sign up and pay to receive a postcard made during her road trip. Participants were not allowed to choose the postcards that they received—the image that appeared on them came as a surprise in the mail. Romantic in spirit, these painted postcards reflect the appeal of plein air landscape painting, the allure of open road, a love of nature, and the intimacy of journal and letter writing.

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