A CLUI EXHIBIT AND TEACHING program exploring the interpretive resource of postcards was presented at California State University Bakersfield in the spring of 2022, as the culmination of a residency there by CLUI program director Aurora Tang, working with Jesse Sugarmann, noted “car artist” and art department chair.
Tang drew from the Center’s collection of vintage postcards by Merle Porter, many of which depict places in California’s Central Valley, as a point of entry to explore how rephotography and postcards can shape our understanding of place. Students made their own postcards of local places, distinct portraits of Bakersfield, as seen through their choice of landmarks.
The exhibit Time Stamps: Revisiting California Through the Postcards of Merle Porter featured dozens of postcards of California places, paired with contemporary photographs of the same view, taken by the CLUI. The two images, side by side, span the gap between then and now, and unearth surprising, subtle, and revealing patterns of change and stasis.
Over the summer, the Center inventoried, catalogued, scanned, and archived its collection of thousands of Merle Porter postcards, aided by CLUI intern Sofía Rodriguez, a Barnard College student. The Center’s efforts to investigate the interpretive potential of place-based postcards continues. ♦