Event Lectures and Symposia Art, Literature and Poetry: Creative Collaborations at the Library of Congress

Date and Location

Part of National Book Festival ; 2021 National Book Festival

Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ADA@loc.gov.

Many modern and contemporary artists have found singular joy in illustrating, interpreting and reimagining the legend, symbol and sentiment within literature and poetry. Beginning with early 20th-century livres d’artiste and concluding with contemporary graphic and book artists, Library of Congress curators discuss the many different creative unions between art and the written word over the past century.

In “Painters, Poets and Prints,” Stephanie Stillo uses the recently donated Aramont Library to discuss the longstanding misconception that modern art was non-literary, or free from visual interpretation of dramatic or poetic influences. Stillo addresses this misconception through a brief overview of the often-overlooked genre of livres d’artiste (books illustrated with original prints by painters). Books by painters were often profoundly experimental and collaborative objects. Stillo explores how modern artists like Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse worked with publishers, specialized workshops and, sometimes, living authors, to create original prints series that offered a new or personal interpretation of historic and contemporary literature and poetry. Stillo also explores the legacy of the livre d’artiste movement in the works of contemporary artists like Phoebe Beasley, Jacob Lawrence and several others.

In “Porous Boundaries: Graphic Art Engaged with Poetry,” Katherine Blood explores how modern and contemporary artists interweave creative languages of visual art and poetry in mutually transformative ways. Text and image share the page in artworks by Lesley Dill and Antonio Martorell, responding to poetry by Emily Dickinson and Julia de Burgos, respectively. Juan Felipe Herrera’s ekphrastic poems interpret linocuts by Artemio Rodríguez. Herrera’s fellow poets, currently serving Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and former National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman inspired luminous, born-digital portraits by Bunky Echo-Hawk and Kate DeCiccio. These, and further examples from the Library’s collections by such artists as Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. and Leonid Tishkov, show how blending visual and textual poetry can enhance and deepen our appreciation of both.

In “Collaboration as Transformation,” Mark Dimunation addresses the way in which artists’ books not only “illustrate” texts, but also, more importantly, actually manipulate them to create a singular artistic vision. Format, materials and structure can render text malleable or random, or even create a new reading of a text. Dimunation looks at works such as an edition of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” where artists seek to visually enhance the power of the narrative. Other artists, such as Claire Van Vliet, Tom Phillips and John Eric Broaddus, alter pages, allowing for portions of unrelated texts to combine to create new meanings. Some, such as Werner Pfeiffer’s zipper poetry, simply allow the structure to determine the order and meaning of the text. These intersections of illustration and words can amplify or transform the original text, offering an entirely new work and an all-encompassing experience of collaboration.

Learn more about the Library of Congress experts participating in the National Book Festival, including Stephanie Stillo, Katherine Blood and Mark Dimunation.