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Special delivery: Exhibit showcases ‘Weirdest, Most Creative Mailboxes in New Mexico’

Richard Melzer traveled around the state to take photographs of mailboxes.

Richard Melzer has traveled to the many nooks and crannies of New Mexico.

During his trips in the Land of Enchantment, he’s been able to capture intricate and left-of-center art that makes the state so unique.

His latest exhibit, “The Weirdest, Most Creative Mailboxes in New Mexico,” will be on display beginning Jan. 18 through Feb. 22, at the Museum of Hertiage & Arts in Los Lunas.

An engine is made into a mailbox in El Cerro Mission. (Courtesy of Richard Melzer)

“I love to travel around New Mexico,” Melzer says. “I’ve done different projects, like one on cemeteries and one on outhouses. As I was traveling around, I see things. Many mailboxes caught my eye, so I photographed them. The mailboxes reflect New Mexico and the folks here that are creative, artistic and funny.”

Melzer recently retired from University of New Mexico-Valencia after 40 years. He is an author, historian and photographer.

While the exhibit features photos of mailboxes from around the state, he says there are a few that stand out to him.

A mailbox in Madrid. (Courtesy of Richard Melzer)

One is a mailbox held by a sculpted hand in Santa Fe off Airport Road.

“This one is tremendous,” he says. “I never knew how long it had been there. It’s a staple in the community.”

Madrid, Melzer says, there has the biggest concentration of stylized mailboxes.

And at El Cerro Mission in Valencia County, there is a UFO holding a mailbox.

“Each one is unique,” he says.

The exhibit features 50 photographs, and Melzer says it was difficult to choose from among hundreds.

“We wanted examples of various things,” he says. “Some mailboxes represent transportation. One is a U.S. mail truck. There are some tractors. Then we went into an assortment of animals. There’s a great carving of a cat, and it looks like he’s waiting for the mail. There’s one in Las Cruces that is a green chile. It’s amazing to see the imagination come to life.”

Cynthia Shetter, library and museum director, says the museum has worked with Melzer in the past on projects.

“He’s known for his photography of interesting items,” Shetter says. “Over the years, he’s developed a great following and people do come out to see his work.”

Shetter says the museum routinely changes its exhibits every few months.

The majority are art or history exhibits.

A red sculpture holds a mailbox in El Cerro Mission. (Courtesy of Richard Melzer)

“We’re working on creating ‘Wonder Women of New Mexico,’ which takes a look at 100 years of women’s rights in New Mexico,” she says. “That will be up in March. We try to keep the art and history exhibits balanced. We always try to have a local component, which makes our relationship with Richard so great. He’s a local photographer who has an interesting take on things.”

Melzer says the photographs have been taken over the past 10 years, although more seriously in the last two or three.

“I’m a collector,” he says. “Since I’ve retired, I’m finding that I want to take more trips to photograph. It’s something I really love to do. I like to tell the stories of New Mexico.”

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