Postal Service takes cigarette off Pollock's lip

February 08, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The federal government has banned cigarette smoking on airplanes and in office buildings. Now comes the next stop on the smoke-free frontier: postage stamps.

The U.S. Postal Service will unveil a new stamp on Feb. 18 celebrating Jackson Pollock's contribution to Abstract Expressionism. The stamp, only the second to commemorate an American artist, is based on a 1949 Life magazine photograph showing the denim-clad artist, a chain smoker, in his studio pouring paint onto canvas, a cigarette hanging precariously from his mouth. But in an artist's rendering of the photograph on the stamp, the cigarette has vanished.

"We're not honoring a smoker who happened to be an artist; we're honoring a very good artist who happened to be a smoker," said Don Smeraldi, a spokesman for the Postal Service. "Smoking is not the issue."

Not everyone finds this revision harmless. David Lubin, an expert in cultural symbolism at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, said the Pollock stamp was an example of the "government trying to sanitize American history."

Pub Date: 2/08/99

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