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Past Future - Chloe Topf

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

title: Past Future

artist: Chloe Topf

materials: Postcards 25 (trimmed down illustration board), postcard stamps 25, petter stamps 25, envelopes 25 mailing addresses for potential participants 25 

dimensions: Postcards, 4” × 5.5” / Calendar, 11” × 17”

location: Postcards were sent to people in the following states: Illinois, Georgia, California, Virginia, New York, and Arizona.

An Introduction to Mail Art Projects - Chloe Topf

Purple Window encourages the distribution of mail art, artist Chloe Topf describes her quarantine mail art initiative Past Future in this blog post. Topf will also take part in Hello USPS by Purple Window this fall. Email with your mailing address to participate. For more information please visit the Hello USPS page.


-Each postcard has been sent out with a month on it. 

-Whichever month you have received, please share a story that reminds you of that time of year. (It does not have to be a story about you, but one that you know well, is true, and feel comfortable sharing with people you may not know.) 

-Leave your story on the side of the postcard without the return address.

-Please do not sign a name to your story.

-As soon as you’ve completed your postcard, place it in your mailbox to send it back my way as soon as you can.

-Each postcard will be used in the completion of a 2021 Calendar designed by me, for you. 

About the Piece:

This piece was inspired by being forced into quarantine and having no way to connect with people, wholesomely, the way we can in person. Past Future was intended to invite us all to connect intimately, but anonymously with everyone involved. I asked for the responses to be anonymous so people would be more honest and true. It was a study of human experience, reflection, interaction, and waiting. Some postcards never made it back. But if I didn’t have the ability to contact the family and friends I sent these too, I would never know if it was due to the USPS, or to lack of participation. 

This got me thinking a lot about the immediacy of everything in the time we are living in. How easy it is to just send someone a “letter” through the means of our current technology. There is a reason that mail was replaced. But even if instant messaging is more efficiant, I think that in replacing handwritten letters, something was definitely lost. There is an intimacy and trust that no longer exists between humans, and I believe it is because no one has to wait anymore. Everything is just there at the click of a button. 

More on Chloe Topf's practice:

I am moved by change, people, and anything I find that visually expresses ‘life’ and the ‘passing of time.’ Working out of the Chicagoland area, I am interested in creating a space for viewers to reflect and interact with surfaces that I present to them as meaningful. Specifically focusing on the act of writing things down and noticing the uniqueness of everyone’s personal touch. The goal of my most recent work is to leave the audience with an experience that is unique to their life, but still part of a whole. I want people to take from my work what they want to, I don’t want to tell them how they should feel about it.



I am really looking forward to being a part of this project. I’m so excited to see that there are other artists out there who still value the art of mail. There is an emotional difference between getting a piece of mail versus receiving a short instant message on your smartphone. Mail is physically there, in your hand. It’s hard to feel excited about a virtual gallery exhibition, but I think that the way Purple Window Gallery has introduced the idea of using our windows to create our own galleries is beautiful. It’s giving people and artists a physical and real exhibition to be excited about during these hard times. Hello USPS is the perfect continuation of Hello Neighbor and what Purple Window Gallery has done for the community throughout the pandemic. I am so excited to see the variety of works that come out of this group exhibition. I know I’m looking forward to receiving my blank postcard in the mail! Thank you to Purple Window Gallery for including me! - Chloe Topf 

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