The Napkin Project: In Case of War

International mail art event targeted to 60 people around the world whose actions could foster peace.

A collaborative project incorporating artwork by Ellen Sollod and poetry by Ginny Hoyle created in response to the U.S. war on Iraq. 2003.

Read the poem below. See the Napkin project recipients.

Fabric, embroidery, letter press on Rives Heavyweight, blind emboss on Rives BFK. 10″h x 5″w x .5″d (closed)

The Napkin Project was created in response to build-up to the Iraq war and was delivered by hand and by mail to 6o people around the world whose actions could foster peace. The artwork consisted of two dinner napkins, patinaed by use and embroidered with a mobius strip, a notation for infinity, as a symbol for hope and a letter pressed printed poem, “in case of war” (see below), contained in a hand-embossed box. The poem is a powerful evocation of the human suffering war invariably brings, which continues long after the official fighting has passed. The napkin was selected for it’s metaphorical meanings: the breaking of bread, bandaging a wound, protection, cleaning up.

Each artwork was accompanied by a personal letter from the artist, telling the recipient why they were selected to receive it and were invited to respond. Many did with letters or emails. Recipients included politicians such as members of the US Senate and House of Representatives, George Bush, Colin Powell; high-profile media figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Moyers and Ted Kopel; Nobel Peace Prize recipients President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama, and other notables from international relief agencies, the arts, and humanities. What began as an artistic protest to war mongering, long before the first bomb fell on Iraq, became a tragic foretelling of what has transpired in the Middle East since the project’s inception.

Following the tradition of the Mail Art movement of the 1960’s and 70’s, Sollod elected to take control of getting the art to her intended audience, rather than waiting or hoping for the audience to come to the art. She relied on friends-of-friends and the US Postal Service, for the completion of delivery. Nearly half of the deliveries were made through personal contact. The last was made on June 25, 2004, just days prior to the scheduled return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. The work has been exhibited in Conceptually Bound, University of California, Paper/politics, Phinney Art Gallery and Seattle Central College Gallery.

Recipient response

In case of war

Break glass.
Gather the children. Pour rice
through their outstretched fingers
into the fire.

In the beginning, out of our
imagined innocence,

the weeping of turtles, eggs
buried where the tide steals the voice
of broken toys. Even now,

a caravan of arms chugs north
through desert clouds

seared on the retinas
of Truman’s children, born
in a cold peace, under a mushroom

cloud of fear–the partisan silks we
wear as we fall into Andromeda’s
spiral arms. The price of ambivalence–
a heart that keens.

In case of war, heaven fails: light
in a bottle thrown in an ocean,
letters arriving
from dead men.

In time of war, lives
shine like promises,
break like glass.

©Ginny Hoyle 2003