Abandoned mail truck, undelivered letters become art

Kendra Baker photos
Stamford resident and multimedia artist Ben Quesnel will hold an opening reception Thursday, May 3, beginning at 7 p.m. for the new interactive art installation, titled “Undelivered,” in his Sprouting Spaces studio in the Wilton River Park Shopping Center.

Quesnel was awarded a full year of the free 921-square-foot studio space in December through the Clementina Arts Foundation’s Sprouting Spaces program.

The main piece of the Undelivered installation is one of two abandoned mail trucks a friend of Quesnel discovered in the woods of South Windsor, as well as what he and Quesnel found inside — undelivered mail.

Quesnel told The Bulletin in December that he took an interest in the now-inoperable trucks, which once “served as a means for people to connect with one another” but were “left abandoned with pieces of mail that never reached their destination.”

“I wonder how many important messages never make it to their recipient. I not only consider unexpected occurrences disrupting the line of transportation, but I also think about the messages that we never send,” he said.

“How often have we wanted to say something to someone but did not?”

Quesnel said the installation took him about three months to complete.

“Luckily, I had four friends that spent an entire day helping me remove the truck from its original location in the woods, then my father and brother helped me deliver the truck to Wilton,” he said.

“Once it was here, it became a long process of removing pieces that I felt were unsafe, and replacing those pieces with wood and other materials.”

Because the truck had to fit through a standard-sized door, Quesnel said, it was “chopped up into several pieces then reassembled inside.”

“This was no easy task because I do not have any studio assistants working with me, and some of the pieces were really heavy,” he said.

“It was just me cutting the truck apart in the space and reassembling it in the best way that I could manage. I went through many sawzall blades trying to make this happen.”

Quesnel said the truck will remain in the studio as he continues to work on new pieces.

The interactive aspect of Undelivered is that people are invited to create their own “undelivered” messages to leave in the truck and become part of an evolving project.

“Undelivered is a special piece because it requires visitor participation in order for it to evolve,” said Quesnel.

“I see the mail truck becoming an archive or keeper of stories that people have a desire to share with one another. I hope that the experience of reading the letters within this space will create an intimate and unique encounter for those engaging with the written works.”

Quesnel said he’s already received letters for the project, including “a poem that was written for a mother shorty after she passed away, a love letter that was never sent to friend after a summer vacation together, and a letter reflecting on a past hardship revolving around an unexpected pregnancy.”

Through Undelivered, Quesnel said he thinks visitors will “have similar stories, find connections with the writers, and discover little pieces of themselves within this project.”

Quesnel will be sharing photos of people interacting with the Undelivered installation, as well as their contributions to the project, at benquesnelart.com/undelivered.

Opening reception

The Undelivered opening reception will begin with readings by local authors Tara Leigh, Jamie Beck and Wendy Walker at 7 p.m., followed by an open mic poetry session with actress and poet Darlene “Peaches” Brandon at 8 p.m.

There will also be beverages, hors d’oeuvres, music and, of course, artwork. The studio will close at 9:30, but the fun will continue next door at Cactus Rose Restaurant & Tequila Bar.

Hours and projects

Quesnel, an art teacher at Eastern Middle School in Greenwich, said he is typically in the studio from 3:45 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from noon to 5:30 on Saturdays. However, when the school year ends, said Quesnel, he will be in the studio “much more frequently.”

In the studio, visitors will find some of the works Quesnel completed for a recent solo show titled “Disoriented Objects,” which included dismembered chairs and a bear rug created from teddy bears.

“There are other pieces that will be on display in the space as well — some are finished and some are not,” he said.

“This is my studio space for the year, so some of the pieces that people will see are in progress and being worked on for other upcoming shows.”

This spring, Quesnel has a couple of community workshops lined up, including one with Wilton Youth Council’s Youth to Youth club, which will be doing a project with some of the chairs he’s collected. Wilton Girl Scouts will also be visiting his studio to do a “mail art” project inspired by contemporary artist Ray Johnson and the development of the New York Correspondence School.