Stretching the Poem: The New Art and Word Realizations of Juan Felipe Herrera

June 3 – July 31, 2022

Stretching the Poem: The New Art and Word Realizations of Juan Felipe Herrera presents the art of US Poet Laureate emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera. Recognized for his accomplishments in verse and his talents in the art of language, the poet’s esteemed work is informed by a multidimensional process that simultaneously includes artmaking while composing poetry. Through his practice and work as an educator, Herrera continues to explore the dimensions of and connections between different art forms, specifically, visual art and written word. This exhibition is a celebration of that union and the power of unbridled creative expression.

Artist Statement

The art I have on display is an example of recent work where I treat paper, cardboard, or packaging as a canvas and use various types of ink pens, Japanese bamboo quills and Prismacolor markers more as brushes than their original designated functions. These materials provide a larger area of movement – physical, mental and emotional. With larger format paper I have a more expansive field and I can move my arms and hands in a wider space with more motion. This allows my mind to flow more intensely and with more freedom. Intensity and freedom are linked to my poetry — it energizes flow, which is at the heart of creativity and imagination.

Of course, most critical, the utilizing of these materials are fun. I can integrate multiple disciplines at once – sculpture, using paper and cardboard, painting, using colors, and most of all, writing frenetically. There are hidden rewards — cardboard can be treated, that is, sprayed with water, sun-dried, and stained with drops of India ink – and it can be torn and shaped, like sculpture. Large paper can be used to create diagrams, mandalas, and poetry in simultaneity. Most of all, writing this way with unique materials, mediums and instruments affects and changes the poem, the art, and poetry allows me to consider new ways of seeing the world, myself, the work, and the future.

I am after a new kindness. Aren’t we all?

– Juan Felipe Herrera


About the Artist

Juan Felipe has published over 30 poetry and children’s books. He has been awarded the Ezra Keats Award, National Book Critic’s Circle Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowships, the Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award, four honorary PhDs, among others.

With a life of service in education and community, Juan Felipe has taught poetry and art in universities (Fresno State, UI-Carbondale, and UC-Riverside), community spaces, and correctional facilities. He has been recognized for his commitment to poetry by being appointed the Poet Laureate of California (2012-2015) and Poet Laureate of the United States (2015-2017). In 2017, he founded the Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio at Fresno State to continue exploring poetry and art with the community.

He lives in Fresno, California, with his wife, poet, Margarita Robles.


Image: Juan Felipe Herrera (b. 1948), SinNombres No. 6, 2021, black India ink with bamboo brush on 60lb sketch paper, 12 x 9 in.