Vintage Signs of Route 66

I love type!

As a rabid D&D kid in 1979, I used the gift of a set of calligraphy nibs to play with medieval scripts with a Celtic feel. For some reason, the many frustrations of the work didn’t bug me enough to make me quit. The typefaces had enough connection to my imaginary worlds to propel me past all the imperfections I could see in my work. And then Tintin, and Herge’s careful type. And then Lucky Luc, and other early Ligne Claire artists, because our French teacher knew what was up.

As a teen in the mid-’80s, I found Raw magazine at Newberry Comics in Harvard Square. My friend Aaron Diskin and I made punk zines entitled “Necronomicon” on the library Xerox machine, inspired by the Sex Pistols. And eventually I had to make my own comix, ripping all that off. Type! Type in its zillions of forms!

I did graphic design all through my 20s, as it paid well at the time. Type! Type in new forms, thanks to the atom bomb that was Dave Carson! 

I love type. I’m looking at my city with a painter’s eyes. Albuquerque is a Mecca of hand lettering and sign painting, with at least two major rivers of tradition flowing through here. One is Route 66, and the other is the visual music conjured by Latino, and especially northern Mexican, immigrants and and refugees. I’ve never been to Juarez, but I imagine it’s a city full of hand-painted signs. 

I’m just beginning to bring type into my paintings. For me it’s a thread that sews my life together, and a river that is taking me into the future of our world–a future that will be centered in Latino culture as the 21st century unfolds. For me type is so full of feeling. So full of my longing to belong. 

These photos are of objects in a private collection. In deference to their curator’s wishes, I won’t share where I found them–though I can’t help sharing them with you. 

What’s your favorite Abq street sign? What forms of type have moved you in your life? I’m hungry for typographic inspiration, and I’d love to share in yours.

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