28 October 2012

(1) The Postcard Age and (2) Mary Oliver

Couturier Vionnet advertising cards by Ernesto Michahelles.

When my children were young, prior to our annual trips to the Cape or further afield, I would pre-print address labels.  Each night, daughter and son would each write one postcard, to grandparents or a friend.  We're not talking Hemingway here; the messages were necessarily brief and on the order of "Dear Grandma, we saw a whale today and had spaghetti for dinner. It was good!"  Stamped and addressed, with those handy labels, off the card would go.

The recipient was thrilled and the children learned to record observations about their day in this child-friendly form of written communication.  As they progressed through school, in-class essays never held any terror for my children; the postcard practice helped them approach the blank page with less fear.

I still love to send and receive postcards, so imagine my eagerness to see a new exhibit at the MFA, The Postcard Age, drawn from the 100,000+ collection of Leonard Lauder.

Cards by Ilona Mate, circa 1906. 

We're all familiar with the static, depopulated photographs of monuments. This is not what Mr. Lauder so thoughtfully amassed. Instead, he focused on cards which captured the spirit and activity of a specific time and place. Propaganda, advertising, technology - it's all here, not to mention The New Woman, sports, and transportation.  Graphic artists created masterpieces in a format of 3.5" by 5.5" inches, working in art nouveau and other styles, proving once more that limitations - in this case size - can be liberating.

In addition,  for anyone interested in fashion this is a must-see exhibit, as you can tell from the images I sneaked for this blog.  The curatorial commentary is excellent too.

Blow-up of postcard advertising bicycle tires; note bloomers!

After looking at the exhibit I took a seat in the Remis Auditorium at the museum for a sold-out poetry reading by Mary Oliver, shown  below graciously signing books after the reading. The last image below is of her hand, writing.

Ms. Oliver signing my books.

Ink, pen and paper.
Ms. Oliver is a Pulitzer prize-winning poet now living in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

I Go Down to the Shore

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall-
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
Poem from A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver, The Penguin Press, 2012, ISBN  978-1-59420-477-7.