The multi-disciplinary artist Diana Solis was born in Mexico but cut her artistic teeth in the Pilsen neighborhood in the 1980s and 1990s.
During that time, she encountered – and photographed – many of the artists and poets she befriended along the way. In the Poetry Foundation’s exhibition, “Encuentros: Photographs of Chicago Poetry Communities 1978 through 1994,” a rediscovered trove of photographs and ephemera depicts the artists in the community she helped create. Many of them are still beloved figures to this day.
Poetry Foundation Creative Director Fred Sasaki says the exhibition grew out of the discovery of a collection of Solis’ photographs and other items abandoned in a basement.
“[Co-curator] Nicole [Marroquin] was called in and I believe she texted [co-curator] Oscar [Arreola] to say, ‘You’ve got to come check out this stuff,’” he said. “He arrived for the unboxing, and it was all this stuff – photographs, notebooks, contact sheets, broadsides, books, it was just a gold mine.”
Sasaki says the exhibition endeavors to show how the people creating art also create community with each other.
“We’re looking at the way poetry engages with the visual arts, with performance, with music and understanding this as a whole experience and not like these siloed art forms, understanding that this is about ways that we communicate with each other,” Sasaki said. “I think it is so valuable to recognize these poets and to see these poets and to make space and to provide care for their future survival through these photographs, but then also through ways that we exist in this world.”
Sasaki says while he believes everyone would benefit from seeing the exhibition, he would especially love for members of the artistic community it illustrates to see it, and in turn help them make the archive more complete and accurate.
“Come and see this work and fill in the gaps, tell us what we have wrong and then add to it, because this is a living breathing archive,” he said.
The exhibition runs through Jan. 14, 2022, at 61 W. Superior, Chicago.