Postcard Talk

It has become my habit to place recently received postcards on bookshelves, lean against few thin books, or fat volumes of encyclopedias, so I would have more opportunity to meet them eye to eye before I forget. I stick them with magnets on stainless steel bookshelf support stands, that way they’d become more outstanding to call on my gaze, that way I can endlessly consume them before resting them along with others inside pocket folders. As of time of this writing, conveniently turning my head to the right, the four sugar cane stems postcard sent from Glenn a month ago is still standing. I was overrun with Joy upon receiving this unexpected gift. I emailed back to thank him for the Bamboo postcard. But Glenn gently replied, “Actually the image is not Bamboo but Sugar Cane, perhaps flutes made from them would play even sweeter music!”. The fact that many of our friends collect and enjoy postcards has grown in me a desire to organize an amateur deltiologist bash, or more realistically, a small party for postcard lovers.

The B&B booking journal was marked with big X and “COVID-19” since the second week of March, so to receive the Sugar Cane postcard was really something rejuvenating. Incredibly, another postcard arrived shortly after, from London. The postcard considered lost and gone now appearing before our eyes! The story was that Iris and I visited London in mid-January and we mailed out a bunch of postcards to friends. Some did reach their hands but the one I addressed to Ka-sing never showed up. The miracle that it arrived late than never gave us some hope of retrieving the postcard we sent from Barcelona. It was two years ago in 2018. Is postal service that bad in Spain? Who would've stolen these brief, largely gone-out-of-favour picture/text paper cards? Well we came up with a couple of good answers - either we threw the postcard in a fake letter box - a hoax, or we’d mistakenly joined an artist project. Our Spain postcard was perhaps now safely kept in some Barcelonian artist's collection.

Going back to the London postcard - an V&A production, it featured an image from Tim Walker’s Wonderful Things exhibition. Shot against limbo background, an astronaut like three-dimensional transparent helmet capsulized a woman's head. The "mask" was cut vertically into many sections, each printed a woman’s face on transparent organza layers, like multiple frames in a film. It was actually a photograph of the famous model Karen Elson Tim Walker shot for Vogue Italia. The mask was by Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen, called Dazed, the white costume by Louis Vuitton. The whole image was simply captivating. We decided to send it back to Ka-sing, who was at that time in Toronto taking care of the B&B. Iris, in her quick hand swiftly scribbled down Tower Bridge on the back, with super size Suki sitting on the pedestrian walkways between the two towers. It was all about holiday and our hearts were light, lit with “2020 London”. On the limited background she jammed in London Eye and Gherkins. One of the reasons I wanted to mail back this postcard was for the Tate stamp. We were lucky to be back home before the virus outbreak, and the lightness of London has become unbearably heavy after we left.

I am tempted to go on mentioning another postcard Iris sent me from Chicago in 2018. She was on a short trip there with a friend. I asked her to send me a postcard, if she had time. I got her postcard punctually a few days after she came back. On it an oil painting by Doris Lee titled “Thanksgiving” painted around 1935. The painting, done in a naive folksy style, offered a warm scene of women preparing a Thanksgiving feast, which would have had great appeal to the country still steep in Depression. It did win the prestigious Logan Purchase Prize. Yet Josephine Logan, the donor of the prize openly discredited the work. This controversy only made Lee more famous, and the painting became an iconic image of the American holiday. Following a North American tradition we do make dinner a more sumptuous meal for our Thanksgiving day, which is held on the second Monday of October. Did Iris miss the warmth of home cooking when she spotted this postcard? The Thanksgiving painting is in the collection of Art Institute of Chicago, where Iris briefly visited. On the back of the postcard, she scribbled a city view of tall buildings, most notably Willis Tower. It used to be called Sears Tower when Ka-sing and I visited many years ago. Yes, the Windy City still rings a bell. We went up the Tower on a foggy day and couldn’t collect any city view. Here, Suki was also there occupying a space in the sky, sitting on top of a marquee sign “Chicago”, powered all around by warm LEDs. He’s the lucky one. He travels everywhere with Iris, in her sketches, inside her tote bag as a cardboard cat.

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