Mail artist and photographer La Toan Vinh had the honor of attending several parties hosted by Bill Wilson at his home in Chelsea, New York and has submitted his charming photos of the events to this online archive. Vinh’s photos capture the vitality and joy of Bill’s parties and are a wonderful addition to the archive. They also indicate the importance Bill placed on cultivating interpersonal relationships and reveal his open, generous attitude in welcoming friends and acquaintances to socialize in his home and to view his collection of art and Ray Johnsonalia. The conclusion of Bill’s epistolary novel Birthplace: moving into nearness also reveals some of the significance that parties had for him:
But the tasks of life have been easier since I learned what to do and what not to do in order to be a good and welcome guest, and to write letters faithfully, and not to be too true to myself; to avoid violent purity. So I have produced this letter which has produced me. I have been writing, and I am happy to be able to write, to tell you, Octavio, the words I hear in my head as I write, that we are having a party, and have been for some time now, and we want, with words I am trying to deliver alive from my heart, to invite you. You are welcome to join us in our consonance, at any time, to come as you are, to take potluck with us. Feel free to bring a friend, or partner. Don’t wait until you are ready. And if all that I have written is clear to you now as an invitation, then I suppose that I have finished writing my letter. The letters that made me the happiest as a young man were the invitations to parties which showed me that I had been satisfactory and was welcome among friends. Even parties of somewhat somber merriment. As long as I was remembered (even grateful for looks of recognition at a wake-party). Ah, the remembrances of me that I choose to remember. As you are remembered fondly, Octavio, and can be certain of your welcome in this our republic of letters, where our strongest imperative is that we must treat everyone so that we can enjoy a laugh together later.
Your glad old outrigger grandfather,
Yolanda says to say Hello.
The first collection of La Toan Vinh’s photos is from June 25, 2005 and depict Bill at home in his kitchen and with one of his many binders of mail art and other materials from Ray Johnson. Vinh also took a lovely portrait of himself with Bill.
The next series documents a gathering of mail artists held on July 13th or 14th, 2006 at Wilson’s home for a spaghetti dinner. The party was held in conjunction with “Dada Week NYC” during which dozens of mail artists from around the world gathered in NYC for a week of Dada-related festivities such as viewing the exhibition of Dada Art at MoMA. Some of the attendees pictured below include such well known mail artists as Joel Cohen “The Sticker Dude,” Chuck Welch “The Crackerjack Kid,” John Held Jr., Buz Blurr, and many others. Artworks by May Wilson and Ray Johnson are exhibited on the walls.
Vinh also documented Bill’s 80th Birthday Party on April 7th, 2012.
Many thanks to La Toan Vinh for contributing these joyful and illuminating photographs! A forthcoming post will feature a selection of mailings that Bill Wilson sent to La Toan Vinh.