Pieces of History
Russ Hahn’s postage stamp collage art reveals fragments of the past while his research preserves them.
To create a postage stamp collage, Hahn prepares the background, cuts the stamps into shapes and pastes them to the paper.
From just a few feet away, Russ Hahn’s “Dutch Treat” looks like a painting of a windmill. But up close you can see words among the wood. “NEDERLAND” peeks out of the mill’s walls, and “AMSTERDAM” is a clear, white curve on an orange roof. You blink, and then you notice letters on indistinct houses and numbers in the reeds. As your eyes adjust, you realize this is no ordinary painting. In fact, it’s not a painting at all. It’s a collage of thousands of pieces of postage stamps.
It’s hard to believe it is Hahn’s first attempt at the art form, a 100-hour endeavor completed in 2000, based on a photo he took of a Netherlands windmill. His father, a lifelong philatelist, had died two years earlier. Hahn had told his dad that he might someday try postage stamp collage, putting his dad’s many stamps to good use. When he cleaned out his father’s apartment following his death, Hahn found a shoe box with his name on it in a closet. Inside were packets of stamps sorted by color and issue. “It was a pretty clear message,” says Hahn. “You know, ‘Okay kid, get going!’” The artist laughs warmly.