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Heck, postcards still exist, although their use on birchwood plaques rarely does. Chalk up part of that decline to urbanization. “The ’70s showed up and suddenly packing up the kids in the auto isn’t as cool as the neighbor who takes their family on an airplane to the Caribbean,” Pollock said.
Tastes also changed, “like my mother’s spoon collection,” he added. “At some point you say,” and his voiced dropped to a whisper, “ ‘Let’s put this away now.’ ”
Suddenly, they’re retro
Today, birchwood plaques have an air of retro chic. They’re kitschy and charming and even historical.
Are they art? Pollock welcomes the debate, even using a quote from Pablo Picasso to introduce the exhibit: “Good taste is a horrible thing. Taste is the enemy of creativity.”
Writing in the exhibition catalog for the exhibit’s U.S. debut in Seattle, Borghild Håkansson said she began collecting the plaques because each is unique and handmade. Best of all, they are tangible keepsakes of an encounter at a time when we experience more and more through the distance of a screen, whether on a computer, TV or phone.
“A graspable world is one in which we can engage,” she wrote. “Perhaps we can say that the birch board picture stands as a symbol of the graspable, the ability to be made happy by that familiar and yet still unknown place which one can long for and wonder about.”
Which pretty much describes a vacation souvenir: a memory you can hold in your hand.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185