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Word and Images from the Folk Art of Inland Cities

Vital Signs. Poetry by Juan Delgado. Photography by Thomas McGovern"Vital Signs" is the intimate response from an Inland poet and photographer, to the hand-painted typography and murals of their region, and the appreciation of images on the small tiendas that supports those who regard the aesthetic as folk art. For this former Riversider, this book of words and images, published October 2013 by Heyday and Inlandia Institute, had me revisit my former region, during the time of year when we all are thinking of being homeward bound.

The collaboration between poet Juan Delgado and photographer Thomas McGovern, both teacher at CSU San Bernardino, speaks of familiar layers from ethnic neighborhoods in the Inland cities of Southern California. Delgado's poetry shares pages with McGovern's pictures in this roam of quiet Latino neighborhoods.

Images like the Our Lady of Guadalupe on stores (or Aztec dancers carrying rims on behalf of Sonora Tire) link the inland Latino neighborhoods to the big city. Yet, the stillness captured by McGovern relate to the small towns east of Los Angeles, of what was just tagged as sites for the "rural mural" movement.

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The words and pictures also reflect how the area is located: in between the populous city and desert towns, a core that grew out from railroad and agriculture, independent of Los Angeles. These cities -- San Bernardino, Riverside, Fontana, Redlands, Corona -- even had their own lifeline of the Santa Ana River, which is twice as long as the Los Angeles River.

La Carreta Restaurant I Photo by Thomas McGovern

"I fell in love with the area," said McGovern, a professor of art at CSUSB, and a former photo editor of the Village Voice. "El Tigre Market" and "La Carreta Restaurant" are two of the photographs taken from 2006 to 2012, during his safaris through Inland cities east of Los Angeles County.

Below are additional photos from McGovern's portfolio, courtesy of the photography professor, that did not make this edition.

In the photo that reads "Archie," an arrow shows where Archie may be found if you needed what ever service he provides. The lettering reminds me of the hand painted signs all over major cities, such as the painted over sign for Los Feliz Auto Parts & Service in Los Angeles that inspired a type specimen for Emigre Fonts. Oddly, the irregularities of type like this keeps it from being dated.

The poetry by Delgado, director of the M.F.A. program at CSUSB, comes out from living within this visual grammar of hand-painted signs. As you read, the photographs and poetry pass by like the sign on the side of building that tries to get your attention as you drive down the major streets that were once highways.

Photo by Thomas McGovern

Photo by Thomas McGovern

Photo by Thomas McGovern

Top photo, "El Tigre Market" (2006), and "La Carreta Restaurant" (2007) are two photos by Thomas McGovern in "Vital Signs," published by Heyday and Inlandia Institute, 2013. Other photos from his portfolio of landscapes of the Inland Empire © Thomas McGovern

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
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