Two limited edition prints here. One is a limited edition print of sorts (a United States postage stamp) affixed to another print on an envelope. It is an individually hand-painted print mailed on the first day of issue for the Warhol stamp used to mail it. August 9, 2002.
For some bizarre reason, it was reported the Warhol 37 cent stamp was unveiled at the Gagosian Galllery on Madison avenue. WHAT? Jeez, I wonder if "Go Go" had any Warhol works in the back room? Gauche!
Fortunately another source says the stamp was first presented at the Andy Warhol Museum where it most certainly belonged. The stamp was originally a photo booth portrait, and it appears the Warhol Museum owns the original. It was actually a passport photo from the 1960s. The artist first made his own prints of the image in 1964 which were sold for "a few hundred dollars." A later edition (The Red Series) from 1965 were apparently given away. Read the story of one disputed print HERE in the Daily Mail. The average print run of a United States commemorative stamp is around 50 million. That is a lot of tiny Warhol works, but still limited. The annual limited edition Christmas stamps double that number and then some.
How many were mailed on special envelopes like this one? Only Fred Collins knows. Mr. Collins made his living creating and selling first day covers. His website currently shows one available for $12.95, which seems quite fair considering it was painted by hand. The stamp carried a 37 cent face value and still does. It isn't a "forever" stamp, but is forever worth exactly 37 cents worth of postage. Didn't even change over the last eighteen years of economic turmoil. Or whatever. I don't know if Mr. Collins work fluctuates. Collins seems to have escaped any validation from the art world…but among "first day cover" collectors he is highly regarded.
Lisa Sigel is an audacious scholar. Her field of study is old as the species, but still appears to scare the pants off academia. None of us would be here if it weren't for sexual activity and that makes it one of the most important areas for study, yet Sigel's afterword details a harrowing pattern of denied fellowships, grant rejections and any interest at all from cultural institutions. Their eyes are closed.
The author writes that "there are no big grants or prizes for the study of pornography. Foundations, ever since the year of the Mapplethorpe (1990) do not fund general scholarship on pornography or erotica and most institutions will be penalized with cuts in federal funding if they inadvertently discuss erotic objects." Meanwhile, Facebook continues to figure out how to eliminate errant female nipples from postings through artificial intelligence.
It might be a stretch, but in some ways this compares to the reluctance of art institutions to accept the work of folk and outsider artists. Nearly one hundred are illustrated here. They will certainly open some eyes, although most of the wondrous objects shown in The People's Pornography have yet to find any acceptance at all. That is except for those owned by a handful of adventurous collectors and the Kinsey Institute. One characteristic of all the work shown is their scarcity. Think of the amount of material tossed by horrified surviving family members if they came across some of the art shown here.
Sigel takes on all manner of handmade and homemade erotic objects. They may look pornographic but all reflect true human emotions the makers struggled with. Or simply enjoyed. They display humor (hilarious gag objects intended to surprise) or extreme violence, such as the work created in prison by imaginations which might be out of control. Still, all exist and all are worthy of appraisal.
Sigel also takes on what those here will recognize as "term warfare" as we figure out how to categorize and understand art made by the creative impulses of the untrained. Maybe there are outsiders and WAY outsiders. Just flipping through the images here will shock some. Well…many. Others might remember familiar "dirty jokes" traded among classmates. Although this is a scholarly and historical approach, Sigel manages to provide a highly readable narrative. She writes like other recent authors who popularize science (think Mary Roach and Caitlin Doughty). This book isn't just for the pictures.
There have been several other books on erotic folk art. Milt Simpson, who recently celebrated his 95th birthday, published the lovely Folk Erotica: Celebrating Centuries of Erotic Americana in 1994.. Thomas Waugh's book Out / Lines : Underground Graphics from Before Stonewall provides scores of homemade gay pornography in 1982. Lisa Sigel's own article "Flagrant Delights" in Antiques Magazine July/August 2014 is also recommended.
Purchase The People's Porn: A History of Handmade Pornography in America HERE
Lisa Sigel bibliography of books and publications HERE