Last October, The United States Postal Service (USPS) announced its lineup of new stamps coming in 2023, which includes several designs spotlighting a diverse array of artists from pop artist Roy Lichtenstein to contemporary artists including Di’Orr Greenwood (Diné) of Arizona, whose work is part of a series called Art of the Skateboard.
Born and raised on the Navajo Nation, Greenwood specializes in pyrography or making designs using fire and wood. The skateboard series includes her “turquoise-inlaid skateboard that features eagle feathers and colors of the rising or setting sun,” according to the USPS.
Art director Antonio Alcalá designed this issuance, using photographs of work by four artists, who also include Crystal Worl (Tlingit/Athabascan), William James Taylor Junior, and MazPaz (aka Federico Frum).
“It would have been easier to go to one artist for all the skateboards,” said William Gicker, Director of Stamp Services at the USPS in Washington, DC, who spoke with Hyperallergic about the process for choosing stamp art. “We wanted to engage young artists and bring cultural diversity so we went with different artists, and we were excited to see what they’d come up with.”
For 2023, Alcalá also designed “Lunar New Year – Year of the Rabbit” featuring a rabbit mask with original art by Camille Chew. He’s worked on other 2023 stamps as well, including “Piñatas!,” which incorporates original art by Victor Meléndez.
The USPS has a talent pool of artists, but also keeps an eye on the contemporary arts landscape. “Our art directors are always looking through different publications for illustrators, designers, photographers, and artists,” Gicker explained.
Thousands of people submit themselves for the talent pool every year, whereas others simply suggest themes or people they’d like to see on future stamps.
Rather than submitting a specific design or artwork in a stamp format, artists who want to be considered should send print samples of their work, following specific requirements set out in the USPS Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed by the Postmaster General.
Gicker notes that several factors go into deciding which art suits a postage stamp, from whether it translates to a smaller scale to how well it represents the diversity of visual culture. The USPS looks across geographic regions to avoid being “bicoastal-centric,” and considers the relevance of an artist’s work to the current zeitgeist. “We try to honor the best of our nation, and what our culture and talent is,” he explained.
“On average we allow about three years from the time we begin work on a stamp until the time it’s issued,” Gicker adds.
The four Art of the Skateboard stamps will be released on March 24, when there will be a first-day-of-issue and dedication event at the Desert West Skate Plaza.
People who want to experience skateboard deck art by Greenwood in person can find her work in a group exhibition at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. It was also recently on view at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
Editor’s Note, 3/23/2023, 12:37 pm EDT: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Art of Skateboard dedication event is at the main branch of the Phoenix Post Office. It is at the Desert West Skate Park.