Earthscapes: Middle Row


Earthscapes. United States Postal Service (2012)

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The second of three posts about postage. You can skip the short context-setting intro section if you’ve already DVRed this series. If you’ve just wandered in, you might want to bounce back to the first post to view the top row.

The U. S. Postal Service, as part of National Stamp Month, issued a series of Forever stamps entitled Earthscapes. Three rows of five are displayed in the stamp pane seen above. Here’s the aesthetic big picture from the USPS publicity page:

The Earthscapes Forever stamps allow customers an opportunity to see the world in a new way. This stamp pane presents examples of three categories of earthscapes: natural, agricultural, and urban. The photographs were all cre­ated high above the planet’s surface, either snapped by “eyes in the sky” — satellites orbiting the Earth — or carefully composed by photographers in aircraft.

As always, for readers of this blog, the axiomatic fractal aspects of these aerial views are the central concern. I believe these stunning shots not only decidedly make the cut for high and snooty art, but also, for fractal art enthusiasts, must be considered just the coolest stamps ever.

I thought it best to look at the stamps in the order they appear on the pane.


Row Two: Agricultural Earthscapes

The center row takes an unheralded turn toward abstract expressionism. That’s ironic, since five highly realistic products — salt, timber, grain, cherries, and cranberries — are exhibited being grown or gathered or harvested.

Salt Evaporation Ponds 

Salt Evaporation Ponds

Why does Mother Nature paint the ponds with such resplendent colors? Evaporation causes salinity levels to spike and change concentrations of algae and other microorganisms.

I’ve seen similar Lyapunov forms when tinkering with fractal software made by Stephen C. Ferguson and Terry W. Gintz. One bullet train, atop a tall trestle, blazes in and out of the frame in the upper right. Another set of tracks intersect beneath the bridge. But why, gentle readers, are the rice paddies filled with blood? There’s something anatomical or arterial about this shot. Tissue can be seen clotted and torn. Veins are empty from corrosion but somehow surface areas are substantially inflamed.

This is America’s wounded infrastructure. Or an icon for some past and now abstract massacre.

Log Rafts on Way to Sawmill 

Log Rafts on Way to Sawmill

This mode of transporting lumber in now nearly antedeluvian. Few highway encounters are as memorably nerve-rattling as being compacted behind a large lumber truck.

Fractal art lovers should moon over those reality-level 3Dish high def fern forms seen at the far right. The coastline replicates a natural dividing line of terrain vs. absent space similar to the dichotomy seen in the earlier foggy butte shot. The wood forms, frozen by photography, become islands. The self-similar replication of wood reminds me of some of Ai WeiWei‘s more fractal-influenced work.

The middle log bundle is just a long patio for the raft that rests at its top. I wonder what Huck Finn would say if he could see us now?

 Center-Pivot Irrigation

Center-Pivot Irrigation

How does this earthscape get its unnerving modern art vibe? From the USPS:

Circular patterns on Kansas cropland show center-pivot sprinkler systems have been at work. Red circles indicate healthy, irrigated crops; lighter circles represent harvested crops.

My favorite stamp in the series prompts thoughts of Kandinsky‘s work but is much more geometrically and fractally organized. The iterative replications of moon phases remind me of aesthetic aspects I admire in the art of Tina Oloyede. Circle and squares compete aggressively for canvas space. It’s the coin collection of a giant. Or are the gods of Olympus playing dominoes?

This shot from NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite is a crop circle to aliens from us. It reads: Let us take you to our artists.

 Cherry Orchard

Cherry Orchard

Fractal recursion at its best as cherry trees transform back into dandelions. This stamp is arguably the most minimalistic. Inky shadow lines from the trees intersect opposing lines of the green and embossed mown surfaces. The subsequent collisions produce a muted but natural plaid background. Taking a deeper zoom stroll through this fractal orchard reveals its location: the L-system.

Dust bunnies. Asterisks. A freak snow settling on a field of yucca.

 Cranberry Harvest

Cranberry Harvest

USPS shares the parameter files:

A Massachusetts cranberry bog holds a bounty of ripe red fruit. During the fall harvest, growers flood bogs, then mechanically churn the water to dislodge cranberries from their low-lying vines. They round up the floating fruit with booms.

I hope, probably because I live within a fifteen minute drive from the Mayflower pipeline spill, the booms, like a chain of white bamboo, perform better than similar boom forms used for (alleged) oil spill containment.

This stamp marks the only appearance of visible human beings (and their Negative Man shadows) in the stamp series. In this shot, the people, Jonah-like, and who seem oddly unnatural and thus obtrusive in these earthscapes, become parasites ensnared inside a Peptol-Bismol-coated-stomach ad.

Xtreme blood farming? Or an open bar for hardcore drinkers of Kool-Aid?


Up next in the series: Urban Earthscapes.