Design & Activism
Mitsuko Brooks: Mail Art as a Healing Practice
Mitsuko Brooks is a Japanese American mail artist living in New York. She was born on the Misawa Air Force Base in Japan, and she grew up traveling frequently with her family to other countries and states.1 Postcards became a natural medium for her as she often wrote letters to her childhood friends. The joy she felt from this practice encouraged her to further pursue and learn about the Mail Art Movement, artist Ray Johnson, and later the Gutai group from Japan.2
Each mail art piece almost always begins with a discarded book cover. The artist has a long history of working in libraries, and she was able to obtain the book covers from the library where she worked.3 The pieces often include a combination of typed and painted text, paper, and a colorful assortment of postage stamps. Their delicate designs are beautifully detailed. Despite their delicacy, they can also carry powerful messages that encourage calls to action in the fight for racial justice.
During the summer of 2020 we witnessed the uprisings that called for police accountability after the killing of George Floyd. This inspired the artist to create a mail art series titled Protest Songs. The pieces from this collection used text from protest signs found throughout the United States. This collection is also timely for the significant role that the United States Post Office played during a fraught presidential election with disinformation campaigns surrounding mail-in voting. Additionally, the post office plays a part in turning these art objects into objects of record once postmarked and received. They serve as evidence to a significant moment in the history of racial violence. Their creation is an act of care that helps foster healing.
is a writer and researcher of contemporary material culture. She matriculated in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies graduate program at Parsons School of Design with Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. She is currently an M.A. candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center in Biography and Memoir and works in Access & User Services for The New School Libraries & Archives.
- Mitsuko Brooks, “About Mitsuko Brooks” accessed January 22, 2021.
- Printed Matter Inc., “Mail Art with Mitsuko Brooks.” April 16, 2020.