Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum
East Lansing, MI
Donald Evans’s singular artistic vision is featured in the inaugural exhibition of the Vitrine Gallery, a large display case on the lower level of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. Evans was a renowned miniature watercolorist, and his primary output took the form of postage stamps imagined for forty-two fictional countries. He went so far as to conceive details such as native populations, customs, and signature products, all of which fed into the stamp designs. Moving out of the realm of pure fiction, Evans used his handmade stamps to send actual letters through the mail on a number of occasions, which successfully traveled to their destinations, thus giving the stamps—and by extension the fictitious countries they represent—a kind of legitimate, official status.
The presentation format for these paintings refers to the way in which collectible stamps are displayed in showrooms and auction houses. Affixed atop a black board with felt segments, Evans’s stamps come across as rare and highly coveted, which in fact they are, but as paintings rather than legal tender. His works also recall how passionate stamp enthusiasts pursue complete collections: Evans went so far as to create a stamp compendium of his own fabulist travels, titled Catalogue of the World. While this exhibition is limited in scope, these stamps and articles of mail act as portals to the imaginary global network of countries developed by the artist, and invite viewers to imagine these distant locations along with him.
Donald Evans was born in 1945 in Morristown, New Jersey. He graduated from Cornell University and became an architectural designer for Richard Meier and Associates in New York. He maintained his practice up until his untimely death at the young age of 32, in 1977.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether or not you go, The World of Donald Evans invites you into the world of quirky artist Donald Evans (1945-1977), who "put his whole life and everything that interested him into the stamps of his fantasy world" (Willy Eisenhart). This book includes more than 80 color reproductions of his stamps, which are passionately collected throughout the world, plus his "Map of the World" and a typewritten "Census of the World".