Saturday, December 28, 2013

Grand National

Inspired by the postcard of a 1939 WPA poster from your summer 2013 cross country trip, I checked out Ranger Doug's site. The Grand Canyon is just one of the fabulous art homages designed for the National Parks between 1935 and 1943—and returned to life decades later by Doug Leen. 

The history is indeed "rangers of the lost art." In 1973, while a seasonal park ranger, Doug Leen discovered a 1938 Grand Teton beaut (as in "beauty" not "butte") destined for the park burn pile. As the site's history section notes, the poster piqued Leen's curiosity, and "a 20-year effort led him to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where 13 black-and-white negatives survived in the file drawers of the National Park Service archives. These negatives and the single Teton poster, then the only one known to survive (and the first poster designed by the Federal Poster Project for the national parks), were used as templates."

In addition to showing and selling its gorgeously-reconstructed silkscreened posters, reveals the rich history of the poor times in the mid-1930s to pre-World War II. According to the site, FDR's WPA employed more than 8 million workers—with seven percent of the WPA budget going for arts projects such as murals and posters—and a few years into the program, posters for the National Park Service.

I bought the YellowstoneAcadia, and Arches posters for the office, to recall three faves of my numerous national park visits. The posters, masterpieces of silkscreening, are even more glorious than they look online; in the flesh/paper/ink, they're rich and tactile.

Do you know of any examples of gorgeous art and/or design fostered by the US government during our current recession?

The Grand Canyon and Teton posters are screenshots from Ranger Doug's site. Yellowstone, Acadia, and Arches are my quick shots of purchased posters and don't do justice to the colors or the feel of the silkscreens.

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