Remembering Selena: A Pioneer of Tejano Music

Today we pause to observe the anniversary of the death of Selena, a musician whose charisma and rich, emotional vocal style helped transform Tejano music. On March 31, 1995, at the age of 23, Selena was shot and killed by the former head of her fan club. It was reported that 75,000 mourners gathered in Corpus Christi, Texas, to pay their final respects. Her posthumous album, Dreaming of You, was released that summer and hit number one on the Billboard 200. Its singles “I Could Fall In Love With You” and “Dreaming of You” were among her best known English-language songs, and two of my absolute favorites.

I bought as many cassettes of hers as I could find shortly after her death 17 years ago (like every other Texan at that time) and spent most of my childhood memorizing the lyrics and humming the rhythms of her songs. Her captivating energy and magnificent voice had me hooked. I still listen to her music when the mood strikes me and let that familiar, up-beat voice take me back in time.

Latin Music Legends Commemorative Print (set of 5) (click to order)

Selena’s legacy extends far beyond her tragically short life. Tributes to her work have included a biographical documentary, a popular film made of her life starring Jennifer Lopez, and a memorial and museum in Corpus Christi, Texas. Today, her spirit lives on in the work of the Selena Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in May 1995 to help children in crisis. Hers is a name that won’t soon be forgotten.

Selena licensed by Q Productions, Inc., Corpus Christi, Texas

Artist Spotlight: Margaret Bauer

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re recognizing some of the great female artists and designers who have contributed to the stamp creation process. This is the third in an occasional series of interviews.

Margaret Bauer is passionate about art and design. She spent 12 years in the Publishing Office of the National Gallery of Art, and in 2007, opened her own studio in Washington, D.C. She has designed a handful of stamps for the Postal Service. Her most recent projects were the Romare Bearden Forever® stamps and the , which were released in 2011.
I caught up with Bauer this week.

Growing up, were you interested in art?

Yes. I took afterschool art classes, and in school it was always the class where I felt most at home. We lived in New York City when I was young and we often went to museums. Also, my dad loved architecture and so looking at buildings and thinking about form was something I was exposed to.

How did you become interested in graphic design?

I took my first graphic design class my senior year in college and that’s how I learned that there was such a thing as graphic design—which was different than advertising or from being an “artist.” I immediately fell in love with it because it spoke to both my creative instincts and my sense of the meticulous.

Do you have a favorite art museum?

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice is terrific, as is the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, but I suppose if I had to pick a favorite, it would still be the National Gallery of Art in Washington. It is really and truly a national treasure, and having worked there for 12 years, it has a special place in my heart.

How did you first get involved with the Postal Service?

Art Director Derry Noyes asked me to work with her on the Georgia O’Keeffe stamp in 1995, and the collaboration took off from there. Since then we’ve worked together on Teddy Bears, Modern American Architecture, Industrial Design, and Romare Bearden.

Do you enjoy working on stamps?

Stamps are incredibly fun to work on for many reasons. I had a teacher that described stamp design as “poster design in miniature.” A lot of the same issues come into play—issues of readability and strong visuals. There’s not a lot of real estate to work with so the typography has to be carefully considered, and issues of scale and balance are important. I particularly enjoy working on sheets of stamps because then you are thinking about the composition of the sheet as a whole in addition to the design of each individual stamp. And of course it is thrilling to get a letter in the mail with a tiny piece of your creative effort stuck in the corner.

The Pioneers of American Industrial Design stamps seemed unique—what was it like working on those?

The Industrial Design stamps were sort of an extension of the Masterworks of Modern American Architecture sheet—both focused on the idea of “American Design.” At least, that’s how Derry and I conceived of them. So, the design objective was to use the basic format and palette that we used for the Architecture stamps, but rework it to fit the subject at hand, such that they might feel like part of a series and yet be unique enough to stand on their own. The difficulty came in trying to give commonplace objects a sense of presence and in finding a balance between something playful and something serious.

Do you have a favorite stamp project that you’ve worked on?

I most enjoyed working on the Architecture stamps because they were the first sheet of 12 I ever worked on and because the subject matter was unbeatable. Also, I was intrigued by the challenge of the project: how to treat the buildings in a way that wasn’t static; how to show the details of these huge structures; how to make something cohesive out of images that were so diverse. Deciding to show dramatic details, to reproduce all the photography in black and white and contrast that with colorful but very structured typography, and to stagger the stamps on the sheet are some of the solutions we came up with.

Are you working on anything specific right now that you’d like to mention?

I am predominantly a book designer, working mostly on large exhibition catalogues for museums. Right now I am designing a book for MoMA and one for the Princeton University Museum of Art.

Mary Chesnut’s Civil War

Confederate diarist Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (1823–1913) wrote one of the finest literary and historical works of the Civil War. Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, as the collection of her diaries is known, describes life on her plantation in South Carolina and recounts many key events that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, during the war.

The Civil War: 1862 Commemorative Folio (click to order)

Chesnut provided more than just what the editor of her diaries described as “a vivid picture of a society in the throes of its life-and-death struggle”—because her husband had been a U.S. senator before the war and a Confederate congressman and aide to Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the war, Chesnut was in a unique position to witness the events of her day and offer valuable insights to the people and workings of the Confederate government. Her stamp was issued in 1995.

Mary Katherine Goddard Spread the Spirit of Independence

[From guest contributor Carol]

Mary Katherine Goddard, a newspaper publisher and the postmaster of Baltimore, Maryland, is famous for printing the first copy of the Declaration of Independence that included all the signers’ names.

Born in 1738, Mary Katherine learned the family business at her mother’s side in their Providence print shop. She trained as a typesetter, printer, and journalist, before moving to Philadelphia to run her brother’s printing business.

In 1774, after closing the Philadelphia shop, Mary Katherine joined her brother William in Baltimore where he had opened a new printing concern and founded Baltimore’s first newspaper, the Maryland Journal. Although it was owned by William, Mary Katherine actually ran the business just as she had in Philadelphia. A year later she officially assumed the title that reflected her work as publisher of the newspaper—the colophon on the May 10, 1775 issue read “Published by M. K. Goddard.”

The same year brought Mary Katherine a second important title when she became the postmaster of Baltimore, most likely the first woman to hold such a post in colonial America.

Mary Katherine was the first printer to publish a copy of the Declaration of Independence that included the names of the signers. Copies of the document had circulated for six months without the signatures—the men who signed the document were considered traitors by the colonial authorities—until in January 1777 the Continental Congress authorized the Maryland Journal to publish the Declaration with its signers’ names.

Newspapers were vital to the spread of the new revolutionary ideas, but many publishers faced trouble during the war. Mary Katherine maintained the Maryland Journal through the turmoil of the Revolution and never missed an edition despite the uncertain times. She also kept the mail moving, even on occasion paying the post riders from her own pocket.

In 1784, Mary Katherine’s name disappeared from the newspaper’s masthead. And, after fourteen years in office as postmaster, she was relieved of her job on the grounds that it required extensive travel that the authorities believed women could not handle. Over 200 business owners in the city signed a petition to Postmaster General Samuel Osgood stating that Mary Katherine had provided “universal satisfaction to the community” and that they were “praying in the most earnest manner that she be restored.” But she was not reinstated despite the the best efforts of the city’s businessmen.

Mary Katherine—a pioneer in both publishing and postal service—ran a successful bookstore in Baltimore until her death in 1816.

Frida Kahlo: Role Model for Many Women

Best known for her striking self-portraits, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was influenced by pre-Columbian art and Mexican folk art. Her works embody the pride of Mexico’s national patriotic movement, called “Mexicanidad,” that pulsed throughout the country following the Mexican Revolution of the early 20th century. This sense of Mexican patriotism in Kahlo’s work has significantly influenced Chicana artists in the United States.

While a teenager, Kahlo sustained serious injuries in a bus accident that would affect her health for the rest of her life. Triumph and suffering in her own life, and in the lives of women in general, are recurrent themes in Kahlo’s paintings. Since the mid-1970s, she has been a role model for women in the Mexican-American and feminist communities.