Monday, October 17, 2011

How I Went to the PO to Buy Stamps and Got a Lesson in Art Instead

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 occasionally send a note or letter making sure to select a stamp or stamps the recipient might enjoy seeing or saving. 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:

Images of work by Romare Bearden depicted on the stamps:

"Falling Star"
"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)


  1. I haven't seen these yet, but enjoy the variety of stamps offered.I make a special trip to the post office just to see what I can get new, against the generic type available at the grocery.

  2. Wow! Now I have to check him out. Thanks for sharing him, I had never heard of this artist.

  3. Unbelievable what you can find at the PO! This is a wonderful artist that I have never heard of, although I did recognize the bluish painting.

    The PO would not be in trouble if Congress did not put such erroneous regulations on it that require to save so much money for prefund future health care costs for employees that do not even exist yet. No other federal or private entity is required to do this. Our Congressional group is so messed up. Their irrational look at the world is inexplicable.

    Thank you very much for the expose on stamps. I'm going to start looking beyond the nature stamps and widen my horizons.

  4. The eye of an artist. I guess I have been to the post office a thousand million times and all I 'see' are the lines ... I am a person whose lack of patience tries one's patience.

    That's one reason I do everything online.

    There are so many post offices closing and I hate to see yet another tradition become obsolete even though I don't use them any longer.

    I don't see how our postman survived this horrible horrible heat we had this summer. They also deliver in ice and snow and storms... horrible!

    He will also check to see if I have something to mail. I never see his truck so he walks this entire neighborhood.

    Hundreds are closing in Arkansas according to the news this morning. Only the larger cities will have post offices.

    Maybe there should be more artists in this world... life would be more interesting f'sure as well as seeing beauty where for people like me... see nothing but a hassle.

    jeez... that's interesting.

  5. I love stamps and the things the PO chooses to honor with them. On the wall next to my computer I have framed sheets of stamps for Jim Henson and the Muppets, Star Wars and TV shows of the 50s. Since the stamps will never be used, they are profitable to the PO. Too bad they can't sell more to stay afloat!

  6. I'm familiar with his work from art school. There was an exhibit I once got to see also. Great collages (my favorite medium). I, too, am a hold-out on the PO! I do some of my banking on-line but then there are the few that I just have to mail out too. I collect stamps(occasionally) so it is always interesting for me to see what is out there. What a great way to encourage people who can't afford a large work of art! Almost anyone can afford the price of a stamp. Great piece, Teresa

  7. I love the way you have your eyes and ears and heart and soul open for new experiences, all the time, anywhere and everywhere.

    Even in the Post Office. Good luck with keeping it afloat, I am trying to do the same here but I think we are fighting a losing battle.

  8. I get a real buzz out of pictorial stamps, and I'm glad post offices do commission them. But it's a problem here, too, keeping post offices going. I wish it was like France, where every little village seems to have its post office.

  9. These are some beautiful stamps Teresa. You make me want to run down to the Post Office to see if they have any more of these. I have my doubts since Talihina likes its flags very very much and usually to the exclusion of everything else.

    I also still pay my bills in envelopes with stamps on them. It feels safer to me and I suppose there is some habit involved in the process. Plus, there's nothing nicer than getting a real letter in the mail.

  10. I send lots of letters but I order my stamps online. I still pay certain bills by mail, but have switched over on the majority of them. I still need to enter everything in my checkbook and balance it every month. I think that's becoming a thing of the past, too. I'd be soooo sad if we lost the federal post office and it became too expensive for me to send all my many letters. I love getting letters in the mail. There's nothing like holding that paper in your hands and slowly savoring someone's words over a cup of coffee. ;)

  11. I love this post.

    I do the same thing when I go to the post office for stamps, always asking what's fun and what's new, and, like you, Teresa, I still pay my bills with a check and an envelope. I keep special stamps for special people, Mother Teresa for someone spiritual, Mark Twain for a literary friend, and a whole sheet worth of Cvil War for my history buff friends.

    Isn't it fun when one thing leads to another? Buying stamps takes you to the internet and a new artist to learn about and share. I love Beardon's stamps depicted here, and will just have to see about getting a sheet of them. Thank you.

  12. STEVE, It's always fun to pick out the right stamp for whatever I'm sending. I even send little messages sometimes to the powers that be through the stamp I pick. They don't care, but I feel better. There are so many to choose from.

    DJAN, You're welcome. I have fun finding these ideas and passing them on.

    WILD BILL, Don't get me started on the inexplicable irrationality of Congress. It's no mistake that we've both chosen the woods for our environment. :)

    An unbelievable variety are available, little works of art in themselves, sometimes.

    CAROLYN, I fear that we will lose our little PO here, too. So many things are being lost from government misusing funds. And that's all I'll say about that! :)

    I do believe the world would be a better place if we had more artists. We live in a time when the economic turmoil has marginalized them and we've made false choices in what to support.

    MS. SPARROW, I have some framed, as well. It's such a fun hobby, isn't it?

    TERI, Thanks! I do a bit of collage work, too, as I know you do. It's a fun way to express ourselves, isn't it? Some stamps are like little pieces of artwork. REelly beautiful.

  13. FRIKO,, I hope I never lose my love of life and quest for new ideas and people. You have this love of life, too, I see it in your writing. No losing battles there.

    JENNY, The small village life seems to offer so much of true substance. I sometimes feel frustrated with my small town, but I know it's a good place to be.

    RUBYE JACK, Letters in the hand... nothing quite so nice. These stamps came out recently so they may have some. Never know.

    RITA, Yes! Savoring someone's words over a cup of coffee, and being able to reread as often as you want, to see their handwriting - it's a dying art in itself.

    PENNY, Oooh, the Civil War stamps are great! The Wild West came out around the same time, if I remember correctly. What fun!

  14. Don't worry! The PO will survive. They are finding new sources of revenue! Keep on collecting stamps and art!

  15. Even though it's the post office, they are already privitized, it's all shim sham, it they closed one day a week and reduced the salaries of the highest paid they'd have a ton of money, I buy postal money orders and pay my bills in person. Nice to learn about this artist, love the collage work of his.

  16. I do the same with mail, and I moan the loss of letters...even postcards. And I lament to loss of letters as a lost literary genre. I also worry about the loss of jobs for the postal workers.

    I have had a love affair with stamps for years, but unfortunately never learned to save them. The first thing I do when I receive mail, which is rare these days, is to check out the stamp, and when I purchase them, I'm pretty fussy about which ones I get and then save them for the appropriate person. Still have a few Hepburn stamps which I love.

  17. I've always loved the stamps,, since early childhood. It will be sad when we see them no more: Congress is well on the way to "managing" the Postal Service into extinction. The best we can hope for now is that it will be fondly remembered.

  18. Michael and Hanne, I'm not sure. It might survive, but not in a form we recognize. It's getting closer to big changes all the time.

    Linda, I suppose everything is privatized in some way if we look close enough. I have no problem with them closing one day a week, but it could mean less employees and that's all part of the bigger problem.

    Kate, Yes, the letter as literary genre. I have a book of letters sent between some pretty remarkable people. I suppose that will become a thing of the past even more. I love those Hepburn stamps, too. Good to hear from you.

    Montucky, I fear you are right. I will certainly remember it fondly, should that come to pass. So much is being lost....

  19. Hi Teresa,
    While trying to find your schoolhouse post that Jack awarded, I came across this one. Romare Bearden was an artist i came across recently as well, while googling info about collage for my mid school art teacher sub job back in January 2010.

    You found some great pieces of his posted here this second to last I hadn't seen before -- and there are stamps now! I have been wanting to tell you how I appreciate your knack for selecting striking images here in your blog.

    Don't have much time online these days, but when I visit here, your space provides beauty for contemplation galore.

  20. Cirrelda, He is a fun find, isn't he? I love those blues in that one, too. I've always been crazy about mythology.

    Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog. I'm happy to hear of your visits here.