Mark Harris Creates Postage Stamps for a Trumpian World

"From Russia with Love," by Mark Harris. Mixed media on panel.

"From Russia with Love," by Mark Harris. Mixed media on panel. (Photo: Courtesy of Mark Harris)

Mark Harris is a collage artist. “In the old school sense,” he says, meaning he finds old images, alters them, and then puts them together on a physical surface to say something new about the world we’re living in today.

100Days_300x300zHarris’ latest series uses the postage stamp as his frame for discussion. “It’s retro,” Harris says. “Everybody sends emails now. When you get something in the mail, it’s like a present.”

At present, there are five “postage stamps,” ranging from 24 x 30 to 30 x 40 inches in size (and no, you can’t use them to mail envelopes).

Each painted image depicts “a thought-provoking and satirical narrative,” as Harris puts it.

"In Guns We Trust" by Mark Harris. Mixed media, consisting of acrylic paint, acrylic ink, archival photo paper, and vinyl.
“In Guns We Trust” by Mark Harris. Mixed media, consisting of acrylic paint, acrylic ink, archival photo paper, and vinyl. (Photo: Courtesy of Mark Harris)

Take “In Guns We Trust,” a stamp Harris started working on in the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina massacre. “So many other mass shootings that had taken place in the United States to that point,” Harris says of his motivation to create the piece.

Harris came across an old 1960’s era bra ad and was immediately struck by the portrayed sexiness and attitude of the model. He says he wanted to take the image out of its original context and identify it with a wild west Americanism to sell the male fantasy of guns, liberty, and violent patriotism.

“We are fortunate in this country to enjoy incredible personal freedom found nowhere else in the world, including the freedom to shoot anyone you want,” Harris says. The title of the piece, “In Guns We Trust,” is also a play on words of “In God We Trust,” which became the official motto of the United States by an act of Congress in 1956.

"El Payaso," which means "The Clown" in Spanish.
“El Payaso,” which means “The Clown” in Spanish. (Photo: Courtesy of Mark Harris)

Then there’s “El Payaso,” which means “The Clown” in Spanish. Harris says the stamp’s value is 45 cents because Trump is the 45th U.S. president. “I don’t think anyone knew what to expect, but each day, it’s getting a little crazier, and more bizarre,” Harris says. “In a lot of ways, it’s funny, but it isn’t, because it damages the reputation of America.

Harris says he’s received a lot of positive feedback on Facebook and Instagram for his stamp series. “It’s encouraging to do this kind of work,” the artist says. “I’m in a silo most of the time. Getting feedback makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing.”

At this point, there are no plans for physical exhibitions of the whole series. However, one of his pieces will be exhibited at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco in May.

“Immigration Theory” by Mark Harris. Mixed media, consisting of acrylic paint, acrylic ink, archival photo paper, and vinyl.)
“Immigration Theory” by Mark Harris. Mixed media, consisting of acrylic paint, acrylic ink, archival photo paper, and vinyl.) (Photo: Courtesy of Mark Harris)

The series is a work in progress and Harris isn’t sure how many postage stamps he’ll create overall. “It’s a great time to be an artist,” Harris says. “You can say what you want without worrying it will damage your career, the way it would if you were an actor or an athlete.”

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Mark Harris Creates Postage Stamps for a Trumpian World 4 April,2017Rachael Myrow

Author

Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow is KQED’s Silicon Valley Arts Reporter, covering arts, culture and technology in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. She regularly files stories for NPR and the KQED podcast Bay Curious, and guest hosts KQED’s Forum.

Her passion for public radio was born as an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, writing movie reviews for KALX-FM. After finishing one degree in English, she got another in journalism, landed a job at Marketplace in Los Angeles, and another at KPCC, before returning to the Bay Area to work at KQED.

She spent more than seven years hosting The California Report, and over the years has won a Peabody and three Edward R. Murrow Awards (one for covering the MTA Strike, her first assignment as a full-time reporter in 2000 as well as numerous other honors including from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association and the LA Press Club.
Follow @rachaelmyrow

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