Tag Archives: WPA posters

The Art of the Park

I’ve posted many times before about my love for WPA-era travel posters and some of my own tribute work. I have a wall of stylized postcards that I have collected along my travels. Like the parks passport stamps I described a few months ago, the WPA postcards became an exciting item to collect. Every time I have a visitor in my home, we talk about the parks. Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, county open spaces, state parks, they are all wonders of the west and worthy of a place on the wall. Not all of these places have postcards, which I am slowly working to remedy. But today’s post is about the great parks’ art that I have accrued and slathered upon my walls.

Below I include a few of my favorites from the wall. Some of the cards I like the depiction of the specific piece of scenery, others I like the color palette or the stylization. We all have stories about our visits to parks. These cards tell stories; the stories of these cards have augmented my stories. They let me dream for weeks and months after a trip about the animals, the scenery, the history, and the cultures of the parks I visited.

New Mexico has 14 National Monuments, extensive Bureau of Land Management sites,  wildlife reserves, open spaces, state parks, and more. In a future post, I’ll talk about my work to create posters for the New Mexican sites that lack them today.

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New Mexican travel post cards

I love the old-fashioned posterized postcards that many of the national parks have. Whenever I visit a park, I go hunt for postcards. I have a wall of 4×6 frames of postcards. Whether they are the old WPA posters from the 30s or the modern versions, I adore them.

Sometimes, I would go to a park, and they wouldn’t have any. So naturally, I had to make my own. Now I do it everywhere I go. Below are from my grand trip last weekend through southeast New Mexico. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, and White Sands National Monument. I also visited Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, a BLM property, and River of Fires BLM site, but no postcards there as of yet.

Happy travels!

Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky district. Near Moab, Utah.Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky district. Near Moab, Utah.Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky district. Near Moab, Utah.Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky district. Near Moab, Utah.Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky district. Near Moab, Utah.Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky district. Near Moab, Utah.

Fun and inspiring: The Library of Congress online archives

My trip to the Library of Congress building later led me online to explore their equally amazing catalog of images. They have thousands of high-resolution images, from baseball cards to Japanese prints to Spanish civil war posters. And that’s just the prints and photographs section.

I preferred the collection of WPA posters. They combine beautiful design with period topics that can seem wacky today. Ride the El! Get tested for syphilis! Beat the Germans! Children’s piano competition! Over 900 governmental exhortations paint a vivid picture of 1930s life. I was amazed by the number of posters for illness: tuberculosis, syphilis (31 posters alone!), diphtheria, scarlet fever.

The posters are also great sources of design inspiration. Most have playful typography and engaging graphics. Many of them are available as high-resolution TIFFs, so you can print them out and have instant decor. My bathroom now has posters about syphilis and pneumonia. I’m sure my guests will feel safer.

And without further ado, some favorites:

As old as creation, Syphilis is now curable.

pneumonia strikes like a man eating shark led by its pilot fish the common cold.

The Art Institute of Chicago international exhibition of water colors

An orderly line is a safe line!

Stop and get your free fag bag– careless matches aid the Axis.

14th Illinois Cattle feeders meeting.