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About the Work

American Mail is my comment on the polarisation of America. I used real emails sent between two American friends, John and Sam, throughout the recent presidential elections. Although both scions of leftist, Jewish intellectual families, Sam has been moving rightwards for many years. Now he is a full-on, Breitbart News-consuming, alt-right Trump supporter, much to the distress of John who has remained vehemently leftist.

Seen in the work is John's droll humour as well as images of shit, swastikas and the finger, all of which he uses in his persistent yet ultimately futile attempt to bring his friend to his senses.

After I sent John and Sam an email saying their interchange deserved publication as an historic record of the struggle for the soul of America, it dawned on me that I had to make a work from it and therefore had to keep their exchange going. I did so by throwing in the occasional contentious remark. But I still needed a metaphor to give my idea form. I decided on a 19th century, noble yet hopeless Indian attack on a US Mail train as it bludgeons its way across sacred Indian land. It may have been about as far as I could get from a 21st century row between two urbane friends, yet it seemed apt.

Attached to the impotent spear thrown at the iron horse is a final comment from John to Sam. 'O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!' In quoting this bit of Shakespeare, John is mourning the loss of his friend's sanity, (a friend who was, ironically, once a professor of English), the presidential elections and, bearing Hamlet in mind, his view on the future of America.

About Vaughan Grylls

Born 10th December 1943 in Newark, Nottinghamshire and attended art schools at Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Goldsmiths' and the Slade. He has taught at several art schools in the UK and the US.

From 1996 to 2005 he was Director of the Kent Institute of Art and Design. In 2005 he resigned to concentrate full-time on his own work after joining the Kent and the Surrey Institutes of Art and Design to make the University for the Creative Arts.

″I still use the same approach to my work: I get an idea, think of the title and then make the work. So not much has changed since 1964″

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