Single digit temps across the Midwest have me thinking longingly of far-off destinations: Honolulu, Havana, Naples, Rio. The above sampling of vintage souvenirs (collected in between Company Man menswear) looks about as close as I’ll get this January. The souvenirs are mine now, but the trips they come from belong to their original owners, although we’ve been to some of the same places. There’s something singularly wonderful about inheriting mementos of someone else’s sunniest getaways, different even than collecting family photos or letters, which are more overtly personal and voyeuristic. Orphaned objects whose primary purpose is to memorialize a personal experience of place have an uncanny, ultra-aesthetic appeal–the sign permanently separated from the signified, all appearances now! Sure, the ‘place’ still exists, but like the object itself, the place wasn’t supposed to be the (whole) point. Someone visited this place and experienced something and selected this thing to remind him or her of it.
The vintage character of the objects only compounds their nostalgia. The owners and their memories are gone, and so are souvenirs like these, although newer, cheaper, ever more disposable versions exist. Though difficult to tell from the photo, the Statue of Liberty piece is a lady’s powder dish, still with traces of face powder in it. My favorite is the ‘Brasil’ wallhanging depicting a brilliant sunset over Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain, complete with the shadow of a tram line to the summit. If you look closely, you can tell that the iridescent clouds reflected in the water are made from the wings of butterflies, which I didn’t realize until comparing it to another South American souvenir composed entirely of butterflies’ wings. Must have been some trip.