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Buster Cleveland Papers

Identifier: MsC0785

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Scope and Contents

The collection contains Buster Cleveland's works and papers, including Art For Um mail art works. He also collected a large amount of materials from other mail artists, which can be found under the composing artist's name in the Artists' Works and Correspondence collection (MsC 764). This is an Alternative Traditions in Contemporary Art collection.


  • Creation: 1967-2005


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Buster Cleveland (1943-1998), born James Trenholm in Chicago in 1943, had studied at the Chicago Art Institute and the San Francisco Art Institute after serving in the Coast Guard. He'd become Buster Cleveland by the time he'd arrived in Northern California in the 1970’s, where he settled during the first half of that decade, and became involved with the Mendocino Area Dadaists (M.A.D) and the Bay Area Dadaists (B.A.D.), California organizations of artists whose intent was to recreate the ephemeral works of early European Dadaist like Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters. It was also at this time he began his activities with mail art, a medium pioneered by his friend Ray Johnson.

The 1970’s proved to be a very fertile period for Cleveland having him develop many of his friendships with artists who were recognized as important within the margins of the art world – John Evans, May Wilson, Ray Johnson, and Al Hansen amongst them. Although the artists who made up this milieu were not in the mainstream, they were very much talked about in the New York art world, as is still the case today. In the latter part of the 1970’s, Cleveland moved to New York City and lived bi-coastally through the early 80’s.

Buster Cleveland’s most widely seen artworks were those using covers of Artforum magazine that he produced beginning in the late 1980’s. Photographic self portraits, portraits of friends, logos from cigarette packs, and an assor tment of other kitsch and popular imagery were collaged onto the magazine covers, many of which were preserved in poured plastic after he made laser prints of the collages, reducing them to postcard size and distributing them through the mail by subscription.

-excerpts from "Buster Cleveland (1943-1998)" by Sur Rodney (Sur), Independent curator and archivist.


12.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Correspondence and art work by mail artist Buster Cleveland.

Related Materials

Papers of Zach Trenholm (MsC 867) - Buster's son and caricaturist ATCA Artists' Works and Correspondence (MsC 764) - Contains mail art by other artists sent to Buster (and others) ATCA homepage - overview of the ATCA collection with links to finding aids

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)