By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– For six years, two Cal State San Bernardino professors documented, photographed and reflected on the cultural urban landscape of the city of San Bernardino.
Professor and critically acclaimed poet Juan Delgado of the CSUSB English department and professor and accomplished photographer Thomas McGovern of the art department have published a new book of poetry and portraits, “Vital Signs.” The book is published by Heyday Publications.
The book is a documentary photography project that takes a visual tour through the city of San Bernardino portraying business signs and other wall paintings that represent the intensity of the stories of the working-class Latino communities in the Inland Empire.
McGovern, who teaches photography at CSUSB, uses his photos of hand-painted signs and murals to depict the compellingly rich stories of the immigrant population of San Bernardino, a city often portrayed by media as a center of urban blight and high crime.
McGovern believes that Mexican muralist tradition had an obvious influence on the hand-made signs used for marketing. But the signs also suggest the “economics of a modest city where immigrants and established locals alike set up shop and try to provide for themselves and their communities.”
“As a photographer, I am interested in the countless details of our city that are often overlooked, ignored or even reviled, but which I find emblematic of our richly diverse community,” McGovern said.
“I was lucky to collaborate with Juan Delgado, a poet who shares this sensibility and whose words enhance my images, creating what we feel is an authentic portrait of San Bernardino,” he said.
Delgado, who teaches creative writing and Chicano literature at CSUSB, was named the 2013 outstanding professor last spring.
“I hope that ‘Vital Signs’ reminds people that gazing at art is not an escape from the world, but a way to situate ourselves in our ever-present past,” Delgado said.
Delgado’s work often portrays the realities of the immigrant experience, with its related poverty and hardships as illustrated in his 1998 collection of poems, “El Campo,” about Mexican farm workers and their hardships as illustrated in his 1998 collection of poems, “El Campo,” about Mexican farm workers and their families.
“Our book is a testament to our fondness for San Bernardino and its people. I hope our poems and photos give the readers ways to reanimate their sense of place and their wonder. It is a joy to work with Tom because he is such an accomplished artist,” said Delgado.
Other of Delgado’s works includes “Green Web” (1994), which was awarded the Contemporary Poetry Prize at the University of Georgia, and “A Rush of Hands” (2003). His poems have been included in the anthology “Touching the Fire: Fifteen Poets of Today’s Latino Renaissance” (1998).
Delgado is a graduate of CSUSB, earning a bachelor’s degree in English. He holds an M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine, where he was a Regents Fellow.
To read a selection of poems from Delgado, visit http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/juan-delgado.
McGovern has also written several books, including “Bearing Witness (to AIDS),” “Amazing Grace” and “Hard Boys + Bad Girls.” He earned an M.F.A. from Cal State Fullerton and a bachelor’s degree from Empire State College, New York City.
To browse through a collection of photos from the book, visit McGovern’s website at http://thomasmcgovern.net.