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Lesson Plans

RE: Pollock stamp

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mark Brandau (
Sat, 20 Feb 1999 17:32:10 -0800

As artists and educators, we should be excited that the government is
willing to honor one of the premier players of America's defining modern
art movement. So what if they decided that it would be better to show him
without his cigarette! Maybe they could have found another photo without
him smoking. Maybe not. Perhaps this is the perfect image, except for the
fact that he has a cigarette. Who really cares if they airbrush it out? I
certainly don't. I find it a bit humorous, in fact. Please remember that
this is just a cigarette - not part of his painting or a physical feature
of Pollock himself. Please do not respond with a barrage of "what if"s.
If it were something other than his cigarette on a postage stamp, maybe
this would be worth discussing. I also doubt that by airbrushing out
Pollock's cigarette, we are opening the door for all sorts of censorship.
I don't think of it as censorship, but rather concern for not advertising
smoking on a postage stamp. I'll support that.

Most of us know that Pollock had vices, but the stamp is not about
showcasing them - it is about showcasing his process for creating art. I
am excited that they decided to use an image of Pollock in action. After
all, it was action painting, and the painting itself merely serves as a
record of his actions. The removal of his cigarette doesn't change the
action which created the image. Does it manipulate our perception of
history? Well, only if you are adamant that Pollock was incapable of
painting without a cigarette in his hand or mouth and if your only source
of art history is a postage stamp.

I consider this issue something akin to a "little white lie." Now I know
that someone will respond with the comment that lies are lies. Sure they
are, but think about it - we are talking about removing a cigarette from an
image of an artist at work on a postage stamp. If no one had brought it to
our attention, would any of us ever have known the difference? If it
introduces people to the work of Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism
and in the process doesn't encourage cigarette smoking, then it sounds good
to me.

Stepping down from my soapbox,
- Mark.
Mark Brandau
Art Department
Lake Oswego High School
Lake Oswego, Oregon 503.699.1430
"Never take art for granted, never take art too seriously."

  • Reply: Rose Lee Gifford: "RE: Pollock stamp"