Straube puts personal stamp on new art form

Friday, February 18, 2011
By Janet Purcell
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Visual art is supposed to talk to you, like books and music, to expand your horizon, to make you think and feel good, to elevate your spirit."

-- Win Straube

"Ebullient" is not a word most of us use in our everyday conversations, but Win Straube, educator, linguist and international businessman, knew it was exactly the right word to title a new art form he has created: Ebullient Art. Art that fits right into the dictionary's definition of the word: Exuberant. Enthusiastic.

On display at the Straube Center in Pennington are "Ebu-Arts #1" and "Ebu-Arts #2." Each is a collage of approximately 800 or more canceled international postage stamps on a 20- by 30-inch board.

The stamps displayed in "Ebu-Arts #1" include some from countries that no longer exist. Many are from the early part of the last century and some are from rare and extremely valuable issues.

Straube says he has long been collecting stamps that had come to him on correspondence from various parts of the world, stamps he kept "because they were nice, informative and each carried specific memories." With the help of his wife, Hildegard, he continued to cut and save stamps from envelopes for some 60 years until last year, when he decided the time had come to produce "a painting of sorts" -- a mosaic.

"Each part of the mosaic has its own story to tell. After all, each one of the stamps was thoughtfully designed (often by the nation's top artists) or chosen by (in most cases) governments precisely for the purpose of telling a story, of informing and acquainting you with something very worthwhile or an idea very much worth pursuing. Each one will talk to you, if you let it, make you think, possibly feel good and even elevate your spirit."

In "Ebu-Arts #1" you'll find everything from "The Simpsons" to Toscanini, from camels to seals, from wildflowers to orchids. In one section you'll notice statesmen gathered together, in another you'll find a pair of happy fish keeping company with Mickey Mouse and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You'll see flags and monuments, sports figures, queens, kings and Santa Claus. There are U.S. airmail and domestic postage stamps that cost as little as eight cents. And there is a 10-cent U.S. airmail stamp commemorating the first man on the Moon.

After cutting and safely storing the stamps, Straube selects those he wants to use and soaks them in a pail of lukewarm water. When they are thoroughly soaked, he separates the stamps from the paper and dries them for a few hours or overnight by laying them out on a flat surface.

That's when the exciting part kicks in. "Opposing political perspectives may be shown peacefully side by side, people, nature, structures, ideas, all inter-related or not," he says. "Plus the colors, individually and as a whole, like the skin of a creature or a flower. They can and do talk to the observer if you let them. By now I know from the few Ebu-Arts pieces which are out there that they do attract people to have a closer look and people are spending lots of time in front of the piece, in fact "reading' it and "listening' to the stories it is telling."

Straube finishes his mosaic by affixing the stamps with archival glue to his chosen surface and overpainting the entire artwork with a matte finish.

"Ebu-Arts" might be an attractive art form for seniors who have saved stamps over the years, Straube says. "Even if writing with a pen or holding a brush is no longer as easy as it used to be, dipping a stamp in glue and pasting it to a board, next to other stamps is easy to do."

Just Google "stamp collecting" and you will find all the How-To information you'll ever need to get started, as well as where you can purchase stamps if you do not have an ample collection of your own.

"Using stamps for Ebu-Arts production may be a dying art because nowadays most correspondence has already moved to email, and whatever paper mail is left has no stamps, but the postage printed on it," Straube says. "In the long run, I think the time of postage stamps the way we know them will be the time that was. Which should make Ebu-Arts pieces so much more unique and precious."

Win Straube's "Ebu-Arts #1" was bought by a fine arts collecting couple for $60,000 and donated to the Straube Foundation, (straube.org), whose mission is to reduce the cost of education, for the purpose of auctioning it off in a fundraiser in Pennington in this fall.

Of local interest is the Straube Foundation's establishment of a Learning Center within the Hopewell Valley Youth Activity Center in conjunction with the Youth Advisory Board. The center is expected to open soon in the YMCA's Pennington office building.

Besides Ebu-Arts #1 and #2, which can be seen at One Straube Center, don't miss "Perceptions" on the second floor of Building I-108. This is a collection of works by four accomplished artists which includes paintings, sculpture and photography. The artists are Richard Carroll, Hanna O'Brien, D.J. Haslett and Bill Sonic. The exhibit is continued on the second floor of Building 100, where a permanent collection of works by four international artists is also on display.

Remember to walk around the grounds and enjoy the outdoor sculptures, some newly installed. They'll warm your spirit even on the coldest of days

One Straube Center Blvd • Pennington, NJ 08534 • Phone: 609-737-3322 • E-mail:
Straube Center Boulevard surrounded by Route 31, West Franklin Ave., Knowles Ave.-Bixby’s Way, and Broemel Place