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LIC artist provides designs for United Nations stamps

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Queens already has a reputation as a borough of many nationalities, but now one of its artists will be represented all across the globe — in the portfolios of dedicated stamp collectors.

Jaime Arredondo, who has lived in Long Island City since 1995, was selected to provide the artwork for three United Nations Postal Administration stamps. The 1−cent, 9−cent and 10−cent “New York definitive” stamps were released Feb. 6 as a special run that was largely snatched up by stamp collectors. United Nations stamps can only be used at U.N. Headquarters.

“This is the first time my work has ever been open to the international context,” he said, noting he had a warm reception from philatelists when he spoke at a stamp convention in Manhattan last month. “I never experienced how another culture would react to my work.”

So far, he said, the response has been positive, especially among Asian stamp collectors, whom Arredondo believes are fond of the floral themes.

“Stamp collectors are very serious people,” he said. “They’re another breed altogether. I’d never met them before. There were some stamps there that were selling for $3 or $4 to ... $20,000.”

The three paintings of flowers set against abstract backgrounds came from photographs Arredondo took at sites around the city, including the Queens Botanical Garden. The works were part of a shift in his work from the abstract to images of nature.

Arredondo, a native of Dallas, Texas, and a proud Tejano, got his bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Dallas. He spent a few years showing his paintings before entering a master’s art program at Yale University in 1989. It was after moving to the city that he began to question his aesthetic direction.

“I graduated from Yale, it was hypercritical, you were critiquing all the time,” he said. “I was doing this kind of abstraction — it was very intellectual, it was just kind of soulless, spiritless kind of work — but I quickly realized that I was much better at painting beauty than ugly.”

“Flowers can mean the spiritual, the connection to the soulful or sublime,” he said.

Though the three paintings the United Nations chose for the stamps were made between five and 10 years ago, Arredondo continues to explore floral themes as well as figurative works based on the Mexican and Latin−American history he teaches in courses at the New School in Manhattan.

Arredondo is currently looking for representation and a gallery. He said he has no plans to move from Long Island City, although he noted rising rents in the area have made it difficult for artists to continue living and working.

“I think affordable housing is so important,” he said. “We have to keep the artist, the musician, the writer, the dancer here. If we leave, New York is just not the same city.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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