Elsa Barbarena discussed "Sor Juana and Her Library World." The Mexican nun Juana Ines de la Cruz was born between 1651 and 1653 and is considered by some to be the greatest poet the Americas produced in the seventeenth century. She assembled one of the earliest significant private libraries in Mexico, consisting of approximately 4,000 volumes, which grew into one of the largest libraries in that country today; her library played an important role in the development of her writing. Portraits of Sor Juana by Juan Garcia de Miranda and Miguel Cabrera give us an idea of her library and her scholarly environment. The four social elements that further constituted her world were the court, the church, the city, and the convent in which she lived. Since women of Sor Juana's era were not allowed a formal education except in the parlors of the convents and the halls of the court palaces, it is significant that she is portrayed in an intimate setting, surrounded by her books, a clock, and quill pens. The clear depiction of her library in the two portraits serves as a metaphor for the pervasive influence her books exercised over her literary output.
Clayton Kirking delivered an illustrated lecture on the manifestations of European and Christian iconography in Mexico. He also outlined his research methodology. He began with the catalog at the Adam and Sophie Gimbel Library of the Parsons School of Design, which is a union catalog of the library collections of the New School for Social Research, the parent institution of Parsons; of New York University; and of the Cooper-Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Since the collections at those institutions were insufficiently broad, he expanded the search to the database of the Research Libraries Information Network. Of the 85 entries in the RLIN database, only 35 are in English. He also visited libraries and observed that there is a vast amount of information on the topic in special collections. He remarked that overviews are well represented, especially in the area of painting, while the weakest area is sculpture. An outline of images from the old world to the new followed: prints, such as those of the life of Saint Augustine, were characteristic of the Counter Reformation; they were employed as teaching tools to codify the lives of individual saints and also as models for church murals. Many of the examples relate to European Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Next, castas paintings illustrated the progeny of interracial marriages in Mexico. In the sixteenth century feather painting, or feather mosaic, became a popular technique. In architecture the Mexican Baroque featured brilliant surface techniques, such as the patterns of red and white bricks at Santa Maria Tonanzintla in Puebla and the interior decoration at Santo Domingo in Oaxaca. The talk ended with several examples of retablos illustrating Mary, Jesus, and the Saints; additional examples of ex-votos, intended as symbols of gratitude after the intercession of a saint, served as further illustrations. Many of these feature the Virgin of Guadalupe; in the nineteenth century they were representations on canvas, whereas in the twentieth they began to assume the style of calendar art and were adapted to cut paper designs and commercial applications, such as soap wrappers. Mr. Kirking offered to send members copies of his bibliography.
Beverly Karno presented a survey of the evolution of artists' books in Mexico, beginning with feather-painted and roll-printed pre-Columbian codices, moving onto the golden age of lithography in the nineteenth century, when the book arts blossomed in Mexico, and ending with the twentieth-century livre d'artiste. She emphasized the conceptual break that led to the birth of the artist's book as we know it. These artists emphasize themes derived from personal experience, gender relations, and the political climate of Mexico. They tend to refer to Mexico's indigenous culture, in contrast to the commercial culture of the United States and Europe. The work of the following artists was explored: Felipe Ehrenberg and the Beau Geste Press; Martha Helion, who assumes a more democratic view of culture and who works with durable materials; Ulises Carrion, a central figure, who also wrote The New Art of Making Books; Yannin Pecanins, who before working on his own books in 1980 published 70 volumes of other artists and who opened El Archivero in 1986; Gabriel Macoleta from Summa Group, who works with found materials; Armando Saenz; Vicente Rojo, whose work is more formal and literary; Migali Lara; and Manuel Marin, whose alternative art integrates mail art, performance, and video. Many of these artists published their work themselves. Others relied on small presses during the 1970s and 1980s. Collective projects from the 1980s include the work of the group Lacre La Regla Rota, and the collaborations directed by Jorge Zenabria. Most of the information at present remains in the oral tradition.
Carol Rusk presented Deirdre Lawrence's paper on how library research material was used to interpret Latin American art in two recent exhibitions at The Brooklyn Museum of Art. After describing the origin of the museum as a library, she traced the history of the museum's collections and library resources related to the art of Mexico. The library collection was partly developed by Susan A. Hutchinson, librarian and curator from 1900-1935. She worked with curators William Goodyear and Stewart Culin in building the research collections, which included the purchase of a set of rare documentary photographs. William Goodyear worked with ethnological collections, and Stewart Culin developed a collection methodology, purchasing a set of photographs of Mexico and Central America. The museum later purchased Mr. Culin's personal library. Another curator who worked on developing the library collection was Herbert J. Spinden, an archaeologist and anthropologist. A select bibliography of Latin American colonial art was compiled, and the library collection was expanded accordingly. Two recent examples of exhibitions at Brooklyn illustrate how library collections enhance museum programming in addition to research. The exhibition "Converging Cultures: Art and Identity in Spanish America" was heavily dependent on textual and visual materials held in the library. A map and a genealogy were included in the main section of the exhibition, and the production of the exhibition catalog, videotape, and didactics were all based on library materials. Educational programs were developed using library collections, such as codices held in the museum. For the exhibition "Photography in Latin America: A Spiritual Journey," an equally significant contribution resulted in the inclusion of 25 items from the library collection. The section of the exhibition focussed on the beginning of the use of photography as book illustration and the gradual shift from photography as documentation to photography as an artistic medium. The history of the cooperation between museum curators and librarians reveals how library material is collected, documented, and presented to the public for cultural interpretation.