“To recognize an image or likeness of yourself in a poem or mural, to have your existence—your present being—acknowledged, even celebrated, can awaken a pride,” writes Mojave poet and language activist Natalie Diaz in the newly released catalogue for Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A. Diaz’s powerful voice is just one of many comprising this bilingual project catalogue, which in itself is a work of art—an assemblage of poetry, imagery, essays, and insights into Indigenous art and representation as well as an in-depth look at the Los Angeles Public Library’s current exhibition, Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A.
Visualizing Language Catalogue photos by Gary Leonard.
Anchored by beautiful images of Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos’ commissioned murals, the catalogue features an essay by project curator Amanda de la Garza, which contextualizes the vibrant new murals installed on the walls of the Central Library’s Rotunda beneath Dean Cornwell’s existing murals from 1933. De la Garza’s essay shines a light on the historical and cultural juxtapositions between the two murals, as she explains, “The Tlacolulokos construct a story, an alternate history, and at the same time an alternate present.”
Visualizing Language exhibition in Central Library’s Rotunda. Photo by Jeff McLane.
The catalogue takes readers behind-the-scenes of this vast project with Library Foundation producers Maureen Moore and Louise Steinman, as well as a dialogue between the artists themselves, and an essay by project consultant Xóchitl Flores-Marcial. Poetry also features prominently in the book, with selections in English, Spanish, and Zapotec from Natalie Diaz, Layli Long Solder, Natalia Toledo, and forthcoming ALOUD participants Víctor Terán and Jane Hirshfield. Edited by David Shook and published by the independent publisher Phoneme Media, the catalogue can be checked out from the Los Angeles Public Library starting in December or purchased now from The Library Store for $15 + tax.
Guests of the ALOUD evening featuring Indigenous poetry from the Americas received a copy of the project catalogue. ALOUD supporter Rosalinda Meza, exhibition producer Maureen Moore, and Library Foundation colleague Jorge Martinez. Photo by Gary Leonard.
You can also find a special selection of other Visualizing Language merchandise at The Store, including items with designs by Tlacolulokos like temporary tattoos tees, tanks, and tote bags with images from the murals. The Store also worked directly with local artisans to offer one-of-a-kind Oaxacan items, like chocolates, jewelry, and handmade embroidered dolls.
Dolls are made by Rosa Gómez of the Zapotec community in San Bartolomé Quilana in Oaxaca.