Juan Felipe Herrera visits the Prints & Photographs Division and discusses graphic art from Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca as well as his own drawing/artist book from his Automatika series, with fine prints curator Katherine Blood. View the webcast, read the Poet Laureate’s poem response, and learn more about the collection from the curator.


Katherine Blood, Curator of the Prints and Photographs Division, shows us various examples of the art of social response: of social scenes and human faces, whether on the streets or in dreams or nightmares. We begin with the ASARO collective of Oaxaca (Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca). It is a treatment regarding the death of teachers killed while demonstrating non-violently. We notice them in an afterlife perhaps, reaching up for something flying up above them (their faces?) through the rainy night winds under the stars. There are other stars: the faces of Julia de Burgos, a pioneering Puerto Rican poet and activist; and José Martí, a Cuban national hero, poet and revolutionary thinker. Faces become portraits, such as the "Girl in Red," by Robert Blackburn—they come to life when we paint them. These deep eyes and once-unknown figures, such as the farm worker hero Dolores Huerta in Yolanda M. López's silkscreen "Women's Work is Never Done" and in Artemio Rodriguez's work, seem to rise up from the fog. this is the artist's capability: to make all things visible, to give us a moment to meet them and enter their space. A poet is also a print-maker: when we write we sketch and engrave the shape of a human life, of many lives.

You can write a portrait-poem. One scene. Let us know this person as intimately as possible.

My Mother Lucha Outside in the Winds
Gazes at the Young Corn Fields, Escondido, CA. 1955

Walks through the narrow gold-green trail of the corn patch La Milpa

kneels there lifts an injured chick the red-eyed spider shifts its body

in-between the leaves there is a conversation

both of them in a wild kind of silence coos coos into her hand

a song about her youth in El Paso, Texas

when she would get lost in the city across the border of Chihuahua

—Juan Felipe Herrera
21st Poet Laureate of the United States

Curator's Comments

Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s explorations of Library of Congress collections for his Casa de Colores, El Jardín project resulted in a series of short, filmed webcast discussions with a host of staff specialists. Accompanying each webcast are Juan Felipe’s specially-made response poems. When he visited the Prints and Photographs Division (P&P), he also responded with automatic drawings, called Automatika, which he promptly gave to the Library!

It is my pleasure to introduce this last of three webcasts showing Juan Felipe in P&P, interacting with graphic art by some remarkable American and international artists. In this segment we begin with examples by the Mexican artist collective ASARO or Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca (Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca). Next are Juan Felipe’s own, freshly-minted drawing/artist book from his Automatika series and a poem which he reads aloud for us. The latter was inspired by Helen Zughaib’s poignant gouache drawing called Prayer Rug for America—described in more detail during the first P&P webcast. Another Automatika drawing (see link below) responds to a displayed portrait of leading Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos from Antonio Martorell’s Las Antillas Letradas portfolio. In addition to signature artworks by Artemio Rodríguez and Robert Hamilton Blackburn, Juan Felipe found further inspiration in a poetry-inscribed screenprint (Private Moon) by Russian artist Leonid Tishkov, which he describes as dreamlike, eerie, magical, and luminous—an object for meditation. Three artist portraits of and by celebrated Latina/Latino history-shakers and makers—including Dolores Huerta by Yolanda M. López, César Chávez by Juan Fuentes, and Lydia Mendoza by Ester Hernández—are highlighted. These are just a few of the more than 15 million prints, drawings, and photographs ready for you to visit in person or online. Together, in the words of our Poet Laureate, they represent “A family of great artists for the people!”

Katherine Blood
Curator of Fine Prints, Prints and Photographs Division

List of Artworks