The First USPS Stamp Designed by an Alaska Native Artist Features a Trickster Raven as It Steals the Sun
When it’s released later this summer, a new stamp from the U.S. Postal Service will illuminate a piece of Indigenous culture that’s long been associated with an escape from darkness. Titled “Raven Story,” the history-making postage features an iconic animal rendered by Rico Lanáat’ Worl, who is the first Tlingit and Athabascan artist to be featured by U.S.P.S. Awash with twinkling stars, the stamp portrays a black bird grasping the sun in its beak as it breaks from its human family. The motif is based on the story of “Raven And The Box Of Daylight,” traditional Tlingit lore about the trickster animal bringing the stars, moon, and sun to the universe after a series of heists.
In a statement, Worl shares that the raven is a prominent figure in Tlinglit culture, and the stamp depicts the pinnacle of this often-recounted tale. He writes:
Raven is trying to grab as many stars as he can, some stuck in his feathers and in his hands or in his beak. Some falling around him. It’s a frazzled moment of adrenaline. Partially still in human form, as depicted as his hand still being human, as he carries the stars away. I think it depicts a moment we all have experienced, the cusp of failure and accomplishment.
Worl lives in Juneau, where he works with Sealaska Heritage Institute and co-runs Trickster Company, a design shop focused on Northwest Coast art, with his sister, Crystal. To coincide with the USPS launch, he plans to create pins, prints, and other goods featuring the design, which you can follow on Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)
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Finnish artist Riitta Ikonen has a rare relationship with postal services around the globe because of her ongoing Mail Art series. The documentary project started in 2003 when Ikonen was a student at the University of Brighton. She began crafting and sending A6-sized packages relaying her travel experiences to her illustration instructor, Margaret Huber. Since then, Ikonen has sent hundreds of parcels constructed with human hair, fish, and broken bits of a record, among countless other objects. “All the cards are snapshots from the everyday: materials that float my direction from the sea/ streets/ subway, finds from mushroom forays or other people’s parties,” the artist tells Colossal. “Sometimes the postcard is a test on a new adhesive or a snapshot of a larger project that I cannot store in its entirety.”
Despite her unusual packaging, the artist says only a few pieces haven’t reach their destination, although works arrive in various conditions often accompanied by an apology from the mail carrier for the “damage” done.
I have discovered that my crocheting skills aren’t yet at the point where I can produce a legible address and fluff from the dryer breaks down too easily in international mail. Most everything that I have considered risqué (white powder packet during anthrax scare, shrimp, small fish, film camera (filled with selfies by the postal workers on its arrival), acupuncture needles, etc.) have all been dutifully delivered to Margaret Huber’s mailbox.
In 2018, Ikonen began sending the mail pieces weekly, although before they head through the postal service, they’re put on view at a PO Box in Rockaway Beach, New York. The artist also is part of a group exhibition at Gallery 8 in New York that’s open through March 8. If you can’t see Ikonen’s unconventional work in person, though, some of her documentary projects are featured in a book devoted to postcards. You also can follow her on Instagram.
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The U.K.'s Iconic Red Post Box Gets a Twisted Makeover in Alex Chinneck's Surreal Urban Interventions
Master of distortion Alex Chinneck flips parking lots upside down, unzips buildings, and most recently has tied post boxes in knots. Chinneck traffics in everyday structures that are universally recognizable, which serves to unite passersby in reacting to the bizarre interventions. The post box series, which the artist calls ‘Alphabetti Spaghetti‘ has made appearances over the past week across the U.K., in London, Margate, and Tinsley, adding three bespoke boxes to the more than 115,500 traditional ones that exist across the kingdom. No word yet on whether postmarked letters placed in Chinneck’s sculptures will be delivered. You can see more of the artist’s mind-bending work on Instagram. (via It’s Nice That)
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Did you go anywhere fun and inspiring this summer? Did you wish you could share a piece of the experience with someone? Well now you can with this one-of-a kind mailing card that comes with a specimen window.
Share a piece of your travels—a leaf, a newspaper clipping, a flower petal, a tag, a ticket—by inserting the specimen between the plastic sheets to hold it in place. Add some text and your card transforms into a tiny museum dedicated to telling a story from your travels.
The card was designed by Tokyo-based illustrator Haruka Shinji, who knows a thing or two about traveling. She grew up in Seoul and Shanghai before moving to London for college. After graduating from Royal College of Art she moved back to Tokyo. Her idea for the card won an award in a paper card design competition, and was then produced by the Tokyo-based Fukunaga Print.
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In this intriguing sculptural series spanning 2005 to 2014, LA-based artist Walead Beshty packaged his artworks in FedEx boxes and shipped them across the country to exhibitions and galleries. But unlike most artists who utilize every bit of care to protect and pad their artwork from the inevitable rough handling of mail carriers, Beshty designed his pieces to break. For his famous FedEx works he constructed laminate glass objects that fit seamlessly within the dimensions of standard size shipping boxes. Through the “normal” handling the objects would inevitably crack and shatter and it was up to curators and gallerists to carefully remove each piece for display. The fragile volumes were then given titles that specifically mention the date, tracking number, and box size of shipment.
Not only was Beshty fascinated by obtaining a “fingerprint” of sorts that documented the journey of each package to its destination, but he also found it curious that a corporation has the ability to copyright the exact dimensions of a box, essentially owning an empty shape. He shares in a 2011 interview with Mikkel Carl:
The FedEx works […] initially interested me because they’re defined by a corporate entity in legal terms. There’s a copyright designating the design of each FedEx box, but there’s also the corporate ownership over that very shape. It’s a proprietary volume of space, distinct from the design of the box, which is identified through what’s called a SSCC #, a Serial Shipping Container Code. I considered this volume as my starting point; the
perversity of a corporation owning a shape—not just the design of the object—and
also the fact that the volume is actually separate from the box. They’re owned
independently from one another.
Furthermore, I was interested in how art objects acquire meaning through their context and through travel, what Buren called, something like, “the unbearable compromise of the portable work of art”. So, I wanted to make a work that was specifically organized around its traffic, becoming materially manifest through its movement from one place to another.
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New York-based artist Molly Rausch paints the extended scenes around the edges of postage stamps, imagining the continued horizons and broader stories told by stamp artwork. Via her website:
Each stamp painting begins with an actual postage stamp that is glued down to the paper. Then Rausch paints around the stamp, extending the scene, with watercolor and gouache. As a result, the paintings are quite small – usually around 3 inches tall. Everything is done freehand with a brush; she does not use pens or pencils. She does not paint on the stamp itself. And she does not research the subject, so the extension is completely invented and should not be tested for accuracy.
It’s fun to think how many stories a single postage stamp has, the story of the image printed on it, the story of its physical journey through the postal system, and now a third story told though Rausch’s brush strokes. You can see a gallery of many more via her website. Thanks Molly for sharing your work with Colossal.
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