Paying my bills by mail is something I don't intend to give up any time soon. I may be one of the last hold outs, but I want to see that paper bill in front of me, I want to keep track in a check book, and I want to put a stamp on the envelope before dropping it in that blue metal box, sending it out the old-fashioned way. I still even send a note or letter occasionally. The news that the postal service is in financial trouble is a tad troubling for me. I don't want to see it go by the wayside or be hijacked by a private corporation. I just want it to stay the United States Postal Service. Is that too much to ask? Time will tell, but I'm going to keep buying stamps.
Last week, I went to the PO and, as always, asked the postmaster what he had that was new and interesting. He spread out the sheets before me so I could take my pick. Among the choices were stamps to remind folks to Go Green, stamps to honor animated films like "Ratatouille," and stamps to honor Owney, the Postal Dog. Yes, the Postal Dog. There was even a stamp to honor Edward Hopper, with an image of his seascape, "The Long Leg," (oh yes, I nabbed that sheet). Then, there was one that sort of stopped me in my tracks. It had images of work by an artist I'd never heard of before, at least not that I recall. I paused briefly to take a look, and then, so as not to rile any folks behind me trying to hurry through the postal experience, scooped that one up as well, paid my money to the man, and went on my merry way, ready to learn something new. And from the post office yet.
Here's what I learned: Romare Bearden (1911-1988) was an artist who worked in a variety of mediums, including watercolors and oils, but became well-known for his collage work depicting the African-American experience. Four of them were chosen for the stamps. Wanting to learn more, I googled him as soon as I got home and spent some time familiarizing myself with his life and other images from his body of work. When speaking of his collages, which he felt brought together the past and the present, he said, "When I conjure these memories, they are of the present to me, because after all, the artist is a kind of enchanter in time." Enchanter in time. I like that.
You can google him, too, but here's a good place to start: www.beardenfoundation.org/artlife/biography/biography.shtml
Images of work by Romare Bearden depicted on the stamps:
"Prevalence of Ritual: Conjur Woman" (conjur is Bearden's preferred spelling)
"Odysseus: Poseidon, The Sea God - Enemy of Odysseus"
Photograph of Bearden by Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964)