For many years now, while working in my studio on both my mixed-media paintings and collages, I come across interesting ephemera. They can be humorous, unusual or disturbing images in old photographs, postage stamps or paper documents. If these items aren’t immediately used in the pieces I am working on, I usually put them aside for later consideration. Here are a few recently discovered (the photograph was rediscovered) studio specimens.
In philately, this is considered a Cinderella stamp or any paper document resembling a stamp but not issued for official postal purposes. I discovered it in an otherwise unexciting box of miscellaneous worldwide stamps. The stunning imagery, including the predominant swastika and the subtle details of the barbed wire fence and imprisoned man, initially got my attention. The wonderful coloring also adds to the powerful effect of the stamp. From the minor amount of research I did, I learned that the writing is Portuguese and states: “if Hitler won, there would be no freedom”.
This specimen is a postage stamp issued by Japan. It depicts a young Japanese woman surrounded by colorful home cleaning appliances. Its official description from the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue (yes, Scott Catalogue…the irony) reads: “Advances of woman in society, diffusion of home electrical products.” It is disconcerting enough that giving women more home cleaning product was considered an advance for them in Japanese society. But the fact that this stamp was issued in 1996 (not 1952!) is even more alarming.
I have used this particular stamp in many of my pieces do to its subtle coloring and the beautiful details and shape of the child’s hair. Although well-intentioned and designed to bring awareness to the National Association of Retarded Citizens, this U.S postal issue of 1974 is so poorly worded and in bad taste, that it reminds me just how far we have come in a few generations.
Lastly, is a B & W photograph that I initially discovered years ago in a box of various document and other paper ephemera. I used the image on my New Year’s greeting card in 2005 with an inside caption that read: “In your life, you have the best seat in the house!” It is still one of my favorite images and I just recently found the photograph again while moving my studio back to the Cornelia Arts Building in Chicago.