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The University of Iowa Libraries

Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Aid

Papers of Buster Cleveland
MsC 785
Collection Dates: 1967-2005

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

Copyright: Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials.

Use of Collections: The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Use of Manuscripts Statement.

Acquisition and Processing Information: Processed by Suzette Wiley. Posted to internet January 2008.

Photographs: Boxes 7, 9, 10

                 artforum magazine

                 artforum magazine 2

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.

The collection consists of 15 boxes, arranged in the following series:

Series I - Personal Papers

Series II - Art Materials and Artworks

Series III - Galleries and Publications

Series IV - Personal Correspondence

Series V - Photographs and Slides

Series VI - Oversized Objects

Biographical Note

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, available online here as a PDF file.

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

Box Contents List


Box 1:

Series I. Personal Papers

Folder 1: Personal papers including a copy of a birth certificate, receipts and other small paper possessions.

Folder 2: Collection of papers with lists of names and addresses.

Folder 3: Work about Buster by other artists and writers.

See also Box 7, Folder 2, Letter from John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Folder 4: In memory of Buster.

Series II. Art Materials and Artworks


Art Materials

Folder 5: Posters

Folder 6: Clippings

Folder 7: Postcards

Folder 8: Small paper artifacts

Folder 9: Masks

Folder 10: Cigarette and matches wrappers

Box 2: 

Artworks and Works in Progress

Folder 1: Art For Um

Vol. 1, Issues 1-10 (1993-1994)

Vol. 2, Issues 1-10 (1994-1995)

Folder 2: Art For Um

Vol. 3, Issues 1-10 (1995-1996)

Vol. 4, Issues 1-2, 4, 7-10 (1996-1997)


Folder 3: Art For Um

Vol. 5, Issues 1-2, 4-5, Second Issue 5 returned from SR(S), 9-10 (1997-1998)

Vol. 6, Issue 1 (1998)

6 Special Issues (1995-1997)

Box 3:

Folder 1: Large number of copies of Art Style Post; Original Design Exercise V.  (12-21-1978)

Folder 2: More works:

The Marcel Dupont School of Aesthetics

Ukiah Calif May 1-4

Fuck Marx “ Communism “ Capitalism Love Dada O. K. (2-29-83)

Folder 3: If dada is god are all men Art? Art Series  (1976-1979)

Folder 4: Correspondence Art (1977-1988)

See also Box 8, Personal correspondence and postcards from Buster

Folder 5: Multi-Media Compilation (1975?-1998)

Folder 6: Gallery Posters (1978-1980)

Box 4:

Folder 1:  Notepad including work and decorated empty manila folders

Folder 2: Visual Poetry

Visual Poem Book (11-31-1977)

Visual Poem # 1

Visual Poem # 11 (1977)

Visual Poem # 12 (6-13-1977)

Visual Poem # 81 (7-25-1977)

Other visual poetry works in progress (1977-1984?)

Folder 3: Works in progress primarily in black and white (1974-1980?)

Folder 4: Works in progress primarily in color (1975?-1979?)

Folder 5: Work where Buster and E. F. Higgins III have covered their bodies with stamps.

Folder 6: Collage works in progress (1975?-1984?)

Folder 7: Cavellini Sticker works in progress (1978-1980)

Folder 8: Photocopy works in progress

Folder 9: Mao Tse-Tung works in progress:

Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art (1967) [book written by Mao Tse-Tung]

Postcard photograph sets of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

Gallery Posters

Other Mao Tse-Tung works in progress (OVERSIZED BOX 12)

Folder 10: Television copy paper works in progress. (1974-1975)

INTER DADA 80 (Cavellini 1914-2014) works in progress (1980) (OVERSIZED BOX 12)

See also Box 10, Folder 6 for photographs pertaining to works in progress

Box 5:

Folder 1: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame works in progress

Folder 2: Other works in progress (1978?-1981?)

See also OVERSIZED BOX 12 for a large Cavellini/Buster Cleveland poster

Folder 3: Stamp art

Folder 4: Rubber stamps

Folder 5: Unidentified Artwork

Series III. Galleries and Publications


Work Exhibited/Included


Box 6:

Folder 1: Postcards promoting Buster’s gallery exhibitions

Folder 2: Gallery Posters promoting Buster’s gallery exhibitions

Folder 3: Gallery exhibition books showcasing Buster’s work (1978-1991)

Folder 4: Gallery exhibition books showcasing Buster’s work (1992-1996)

Folder 5: Gallery exhibition books showcasing Buster’s work (1997-1998)

Folder 6: Gallery exhibition books showcasing Buster’s work (2000-2005)


Box 7:

Folder 1: Electroworks Exhibit

Notice of acceptance into exhibition

Exhibition book

Folder including articles about Electroworks

Invitations to reception openings

One envelope includes photographs of Buster

Folder 2: Response to exhibitions

Letter from Alexander’s includes photographs

Letter from John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Books in which Buster’s work was displayed:

Folder 3:  The Search for Accidental Significance

Folder 4: The Collage Handbook


Art What Thou Eat: Images of Food in American Art (OVERSIZED BOX 12)

Folder 5: Newspapers and other materials where Buster or his work is featured

See also OVERSIZED BOX 12 for Bomb newspaper

Folder 6: Price lists of Buster’s work


Correspondence From Galleries

Box 8:


Folder 1: Invitation to participate in exhibitions

Folder 2: Loan, sale and purchase of work

Folder 3: Invitation to gallery events

Folder 4: Other correspondence from galleries

Series IV. Personal Correspondence


From Buster


Folder 5: Postcards from Buster

Folder 6: Unopened letters from Buster

Folder 7: Letters from Buster concerning his artwork exhibitions and Art For Um

Folder 8: Empty envelopes

Folder 9: Other correspondence from Buster


To and From


Folder 10: Letters to Buster with Buster’s response

Folder 11: Letters from Buster with receiver’s response

Box 9: 

To Buster

Folder 1: Letters from Buster’s parents

Letters from son Zach Trenholm - See Papers of Zach Trenholm (MsC 867)

Folder 2: Letters from daughters Summers and Angel

Folder 3: Letters from Mona

Folder 4: Letters to Buster concerning money

Money due

Applying for grants

Folder 5: Letters from the U. S. Postal Service

Folder 6: Letters from admirers of Buster

Folder 7: Letters concerning Art For Um

Folder 8: Letters from other artists or writers asking for Buster’s help

Folder 9: Letters from individuals who purchased Buster’s work

Folder 10: Thank you letters

Folder 11: Letters to Buster that include photographs

Folder 12: Chain Letters

Folder 13: Letters from projects that Buster was involved in

Folder 14: Invitations to non-gallery events


Box 10:


Folder 1: Other personal correspondence to Buster including letters and postcards

Folder 2: Other correspondence to Buster

Folder 3: Correspondence to and from Diane Sipprelle


Series V. Photographs and Slides


Folder 4: Photographs on photo paper and negatives

Folder 5: Slides

Folder 6: Photographs on regular paper

See also Box 7, Folders 1-2; Box 9, Folder 11 for additional photographs.

Series VI. Oversize Objects


Box 11:


Other Mao Tse-Tung works in progress

INTER DADA 80 (Cavellini 1914-2014) works in progress (1980)

Bomb newspaper

Large Cavellini/Buster Cleveland poster held in a portfolio

Pearls book

Art What Thou Eat: Images of Food in American Art

Box 12:

(possibly related to various happenings?)

Box that once held San Giorgio Rotelle macaroni


Box that once held Nabisco Shredded Wheat


Box that once held a Bed Lamp:


Box that once held “California Finest Dried Fruit

Box 12:


Box that once held San Giorgio Rotelle macaroni

   Box that once held Nabisco Low Salt Wheat Thins snack crackers

Box that once held a Butler toothbrush

Wooden toothpick

Fortune from fortune cookie

Packet of Raw Sugar from Natural Cane

Newspaper Clipping on “Transfer Privileges Rules and Regulations”

Box that once held “High Speed Color Land Film for Polaroid 600 Cameras—simple background”

Packet of Sanka coffee

Single Wet-nap moist towelette

Single packet Beghin Say (French sugar)

Small yellow frisbee reads “Happy Mardi Gras”

Single packet USAir Lightly Salted Peanuts by Eagle

Empty carton that once held 2 Tops Tops Soft White 100 watt light bulbs

Single unopened Forster’s mint toothpick

Single Guggenheim Museum ticket for “The Great Utopia” exhibition


Box that once held Nabisco Shredded Wheat

Box that once held Johnson and Johnson K-Y Lubricating Jelly

KY Lubricating Jelly used tube

Wooden stick

Single “Vita Grapefruit C” candy

Box that once held a Johnson and Johnson Reach toothbrush

Beghin Say sugar cube

Box that once held “Bioforce Herb Extract—Prostasan”

One Hour MOTOPHOTO Super Color 100 Color Print Film

Small pin that reads “I give up. What planet are you from?”

“Kiss of Mint” Non-Lubricated condom

Single packet of Kraft Mustard

Broken plastic spoon

Small rock

Cavellini 1914-2014 stamp

Small Buster art piece Jomo

Curved metal item with wooden round rollers

Plastic fishing lure


Box that once held a Bed Lamp:

Box that once held Bioforce—Fresh Herb Preparation tablets “Echinaforce”

Box that once held a WAL-RICH plumbing and heating part.

Small bag of crafting gems

Packet of mayonnaise

Six cork coasters that are tied together with a red ribbon

Box that once held a LCD wallet Traveling Clock

Plastic glove

Small pin that reads “Real Women Ride Motor Cycles”

Box that held 16 “Yama moto yama Green Tea” tea bags

Tube of Tinactin Jock Itch Cream

Bar of “Nature Food Centers” Papaya Glycerin Soap

Box that holds 1 of 24 pills of Gan Mao Tong cold tablets

Sample bottle of Pert Plus from Embassy Suites


Box that once held “California Finest Dried Fruit

Box that once held A-200 Gel Concentrate

Prescription box that was for Loprox (written for patient: Plunkett)

Single packet of “granini” Lemon Juice

Box that once held Peak Toothpaste

Box that once held a Butler GUM Soft Toothbrush

Small glass bottle of Panax Ginseng Extractum

Light green kitchen sponge

Box 13:


Box that once held “Eden: Organic Kukicha Twig Tea”

Plastic mold

Cloth mold with material inside

Sample hotel conditioner

Small cardboard box mailed from Ubu to Buster Cleveland

Crumpled piece of yellow paper (advertises Sol Lewitt exhibition)

Plastic display box (displays a fabricated map showing “Cleveland” and “Durland” as two large states to the left of “DADALAND”)

2 Mao-Nix Ping Pong sets (paddles)

Cassette tape with cover “Trax.” (The tape inside is an Ampex recordable cassette tape with Buster’s name on it and “Trax 0282”)

Cassette tape with cover “Experimental Headgear” and a reference to Alex Igloo. (The tape inside is a TDK recordable cassette with the words “Experimental Headgear” stamped on both sides of the tape.)

T-Shirt with Buster’s Inter Dada 80 artwork displayed.

T-shirt that largely displays the words “No Blood for Oil—Fashion Victim ©1990)

T-shirt with the “Cavellini 1914-2014” logo. T-shirt also says “Inter Dada 1980 and May1-4 Ukiah CA.”


Box 14:



Flattened pop can covered in "Szombathy art in America" stickers

Set of negatives

Small box covered in a paper that reads: Betty Crocker “Ready to Spread Frosting” and addressed to Buster on the back.

Cookie 3-D collage

Mini TV lapel pin

Metal figure of the Town Hall of Brussels

Cassette tape, 1/2 Japanese, 1/2 Live, 1979

Small Polish cigarette box with paper objects inside

Rubber stamp art cards from various artists for exhibition at Colorado Fine Arts Department, Colorado Springs, 1977

Rubber face model/mask

Small paper plate "Art" piece with green plastic army soldiers


Box 15:


Cigar box artwork, Buster Cleveland, Sam Scotland, 1976

Binder artwork with Buster’s artwork on the outside and inside the words “Buster Cleavage” and “Bon Appetite Bon Voyage.”

Piece of white fabric that is fraying

Oval lapel pin that the front has been covered in Cavellini stickers

Five posters exhibiting “Buster Cleveland Kool Rubber Stamps Mail Art and Fake Art” show (Stamp Art Gallery, 6 Sep. 93 to 29 Sep. 93)

Small cardboard tube mailed to Buster from: P.O. Box 3274 Cinti, OH 45201

Peter Huttinger business card with “I get it . . . Peter” written on the back