To and From: Davi Det Hompson Correspondents - Dana Atchley
DANA WINSLOW ATCHLEY
Graphics - Mail Art - Performance - Digital Storytelling
Dana Atchley was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1941. He earned a degree in graphic design from Dartmouth College in 1962, and a master's in fine arts from Yale University in 1965. Early in his career he worked as both practitioner and educator in photography, graphic design, printmaking, avant-garde and fine press publishing. James Branch Cabell Library, V.C.U. has an example of one of his graduate school projects in print making, Warm-Cool System: AC-81, in their Artist Book collection.
During the 1970s Atchley experimented with photography and video documentation combined with personal narrative to create a multimedia performance, Roadshow which he performed across the country. During the 1980s and 1990s he developed his skills as a videographer and filmmaker, to become a well respected producer for a wide array of television clients, and the recipient of many awards. Due to his success in creating unique storytelling monologues combined with multimedia technology, he created Dana Atchley Productions, Inc. His adept interpretations of personal stories led him to corporate clients such as Coca-Cola and PricewaterhouseCoopers. He also participated in conferences to teach about his technique and programs sponsored through The Digital Storytelling Center.
Evidence of his unique contribution to the Correspondence/Mail-Art movement is documented in the Davi Det Hompson Manuscripts and Archive Collection covering the period 1969 to 1980. In 1969 Atchley was Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Victoria, B. C., at the time a somewhat isolated environment both geographically and artistically from the mainstream of art activity. In an effort to stay connected to the emerging network of contemporary artists, he embarked on a self publishing project inspired by Iain Baxters' N.E. Thing Co. With his background in fine printing and the recent development of quick print and xerography, Atchley sent invitations to artist friends to participate in a group mail-art project. Each artist would send multiple copies of a work to be assembled into multiple editions by Atchley. This approach built upon the 1960s aesthetic excluding editorial interference, sales, and register of copyright (Crane, 1984, p.237-238).
Atchley's first project, Notebook 1 was a watershed in the history of Correspondence Art. This project was followed by Space Atlas, another mail network invitational requesting artists to send copies of pages which were then assembled in three ring notebooks. 120 artists responded from seven different countries. Atchley describes the response:"The mailbox lit up, both at home and at school. My wildest dreams answered! I've always been a mail junkie, and everyday new packages arrived. Of course Davi Det Hompson was first to send things in, he's always the first to respond." (Crane, Stofflet 1984, 237-238).
During the 1970s Atchley adopted the pseudonym, Ace Space and formed the Ace Space Company. His first project devised to deliver the assembled notebooks to participants while exploring the concept of "space as a connector of all things." Ace Space went on the road in 1971 with the nominal assistance of a travel grant from the Canada Council for the Art. Traveling in the first of many vans across the United States and Canada, Atchley documented the experience through collected videotapes, artifacts and slides, using narrative stories presented in 'Trunk Stops' along the way. Later these experiences were incorporated into a storytelling narrative, the Ace Space Show, which was followed by multi-media performances; the RoadShow and Video Postcards in the 1980s (Harden, 2004).
Although the current collection does not include examples of the assemblage projects, it does include the preceding correspondence exchange as well as original fliers, postcards, letters, and invitations to later mail-art projects Atchley was involved with from 1973 to 1980. Their exchange illustrates a tenacious creative energy, characteristic of all participants in the mail-art network. It also serves as documentation of Davi Det's early involvement in the mail-art phenomenon that grew out of the exchanges started by Ray Johnson (1927-1995), and his New York Correspondence School. The exchanges demonstrate the importance of participation and cooperative trust that was essential for the success of Correspondence Art and Mail Art activities.
Although Dana Atchley died in California, December 13, 2000 at the age of 59, his projects in the correspondence/mail-art movement, performance, and digital storytelling like NextExit provide a wealth of material for further research.
Atchely, Dana(2000). Dana Atchley Career Overview. Retrieved June 8, 2004,
From Next Exit site:
Atchley, Dana (2000). Center for Digital Storytelling. Retrieved June 3, 2004,
From Digital Storytelling:
Harden, Fred (1996)."Let me tell you a story about Dana Atchley."
Retrieved June 8, 2004, From Next Exit:
Kite, Laddie (2000). "Ace Space's Electronic Vaudeville Show."Retrieved June 3, 2004,
From Afterimage Magazine, February 1976, Next Exit Web site:
Plunkett, Edward M. "Ray Johnson and The New York Correspondence School."
Retrieved June 8, 2004, From Art Journal, Spring 1977, Artpool site:
Bowles, Jerry G."Out of the Gallery, Into the Mailbox."Art in America, 60(2):23,
Crane, Michael and Mary Stofflet, eds. Correspondence Art, Source Book for the
Network of International Postal Art Activity. San Francisco:
Contemporary Arts Press,1984.
Zack, David. "An Authenik and Historikal Discourse on the Phenomenon of Mail Art."
Art in America, 61(1): 46-53, January/February 1973.
To and From: Davi Det Hompson Correspondents