This series consists of three mixed media works on paper and stretched denim that depict a
letter I received as a teenager in 1990s suburban Philadelphia. The letter was mailed from Delanco,
New Jersey and travelled thirty-two miles to Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. It was one of dozens I received
from Rachel. As a sensitive kid at his sixth consecutive school with a militant Israeli dad, for me these
letters and their miraculous contents sometimes felt like all I had at all in the lonely days of early high
school. I saved Rachel’s letters. She burned mine.
Rachel was the first person I ever met to take a romantic interest in me — a shocking development I
was very sure would never be repeated, unfolding at sleepover camp in the fading summer days before
ninth grade. We started exchanging letters once our agonizingly separate schools started, each
envelope an overstuffed hoard of handwritten dispatches, prolonged laments, and of course sweeping
selections of grunge lyrics that perfectly completed whatever sentiment we couldn’t quite articulate
ourselves. Despite our proximity we were forbidden from seeing each other, she claimed, so (besides
a few covert phone calls) these letters were our sole means of communication.
Over the next eighteen months this ran its course, teenage life stabilized, and we stopped writing.
Later on, email emerged and I was secretly comforted to learn that it could just as effectively and
considerably more conveniently lead me to emotional catastrophe. But I didn’t stop writing letters
for good. I still do it sometimes because it’s fun and beautiful and easy, something to do when I want
to give a person something extra inside of me.
Fifteen years after her final letter, overcome with rank nostalgia after attending a Smashing Pumpkins
concert in San Francisco, I found Rachel online. She’s a poet now and I’m an artist. She and her son
Jacob came out to California and spoke at my wedding. Later, when I made this edition, I made sure
to produce one piece for her. It was all fiery reds and charcoal blacks and I mailed it to her in Jersey.
- Media Screen print, charcoal & photodye on denim
- Size 22 x 20 inches
- Year 2015
Notes: Letter from my personal collection.