Library of Congress acquires art professor's work

January 13, 2010

Soon, anyone browsing the catalogue of the Library of Congress will find a name long associated with ASU: John Risseeuw, professor of art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The Library of Congress recently purchased a copy of nearly every work that Risseeuw, a papermaker, printer and fine-book-maker, has completed through his Cabbagehead Press. Download Full Image

And not only did the LoC acquire an archive of his past work, it will receive a copy of everything he creates in the future.

Risseeuw’s work will be housed in the LoC’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

How did the LoC in Washington, D.C., learn about Risseeuw’s work in Arizona?

The connection was made by Nina W. Matheson, an art dealer in Maryland, Risseeuw said, who happened to be familiar with the rare book collection at the LoC.

“A year ago I was contacted by Matheson, who was handling a printmaker and book artist named Claire Van Vliet," Risseeuw said. "Van Vliet was included in a portfolio called ‘A Dance of Death,’ which has work from 19 artists, writers and poets that I made paper for and printed. Matheson said she wanted to represent the portfolio.”

Within two weeks after the initial contact, Matheson had shown the work to Mark Dimunation, chief of the Rare Books and Special Collections at the Library of Congress.

“The reason I contacted Mr. Dimunation in the first place was to show him John's portfolio, which includes a broadside by the Janus Press (which van Vliet founded in 1952)," Matheson said. "The Janus Press archives are in the Rare Books Division and I knew that they did not have a copy of this broadside, or the portfolio, having searched the LoC catalog.”

Another tie, Matheson said, was the portfolio’s subject matter, “A Dance of Death.”

“The Rare Books Division has, because of the Rosenwald Collection (a large collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and early woodcut books donated by Lessing J. Rosenwald, chairman of Sears Roebuck Company from 1932 to 1939), many illustrated books around the theme of the Dance of Death. So there were two features that meant they should have the portfolio,” Matheson added.

“Mr. Dimunation was very taken with the pieces in the portfolio, especially John's contribution. He had not heard of the Cabbagehead Press, even though small presses are a specialty of his.”

After talking with Dimunation, Matheson called Risseeuw.

“Nina asked if Cabbagehead Press had any other prints or portfolios,” Risseeuw said. “I said, ‘Yes, about 40 years worth.’”

Risseeuw said Dimunation seemed a little doubtful at first, before he saw any images, about acquiring any Cabbagehead Press work.

“But when he saw the work, he was convinced. The images showed there was growth and change in my work over the years. He said that’s something he doesn’t always see. He asked to see more of my work.”

For his part, Dimunation said he was taken by the combination of fine-printing integrity with the letterpress tradition in Risseeuw’s work.

"My immediate response to John's work was that it was a delicious conversation between sharply defined content and the fine press tradition. What is striking and compelling about his work is that he is able to present social critique and still maintain the integrity of the letterpress form. His work also has real character behind it.”

Dimunation said he collects work for the Rare Books Division when “there is a significant need to document the work.”

“Risseeuw's work embraces the broadside – the single sheet," he said. "This is a difficult task, to convey design and content in a single space. His work, which is innovative and ongoing in its experimentation, speaks in part to a long-standing tradition of the broadside as commentary.

“Because his work is about both the fine press tradition and political commentary, his archive was particularly interesting to the Library of
Congress. It is indeed letterpress printing with character.”

Getting the Cabbagehead Press prints and broadsides assembled for shipment forced Risseeuw to “clean house” a bit, he said.

“I had to go through all of my drawers and storage boxes. In the end I sent him 129 pieces.”

So how has Risseeuw’s work changed over the years?

“I’ve included more political content, more whimsical ideas,” Risseeuw said. “Maybe there’s more sophistication in my later work, conceptually and visually. I’ve made better use of hand-made paper. I’ve really developed that part of the process. The paper contributes to the final piece.”

Risseeuw is thrilled that his paper and printing now are in the holdings of the 210-year-old “museum of the people.”

“The Library of Congress is “an important national, public collection, and the Library of Congress will remain open for a long time. It’s a perfect place. Being chosen to have work there is an honor.”

Dimunation concurs.

“I’m a new, but rabid fan of John’s,” he said.

Math professor selected as 'emerging scholar'

January 13, 2010

She expected to become a store cashier until she took algebra with legendary high-school teacher Jaime Escalante (of "Stand and Deliver" fame) in East Los Angeles. Now Arizona State University mathematician Erika Tatiana Camacho is one of 12 faculty members under age 40 from across the United States selected as 2010 Emerging Scholars by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Camacho is an assistant professor in the" target="_blank">New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on ASU’s West campus. She joins faculty members from institutions including Dartmouth College, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Texas at Austin in being selected for this year’s Emerging Scholar recognition by the editorial staff of Diverse, based on criteria including significance of research, uniqueness and competitiveness of field of study, publishing record and teaching record. Download Full Image

“I’m humbled by this recognition,” Camacho said. “I have seen this annual issue of Diverse for several years and have been awed by the stellar scholarship records of the recognized scholars, especially given the early stage of their careers. It is truly an honor to be in the company of these amazing individuals.”

“Dr. Camacho is a superb scholar-teacher who embodies the best of New College,” said Elizabeth Langland, New College’s dean. “She is highly attuned to the needs of our students and models for them the ability to achieve their highest aspirations with hard work and dedication.”

Camacho brings real-world problems and projects into the classroom. She encouraged a student in her differential equations class to use data from his job with a golf equipment company to develop equations to model how far a golf ball will travel when struck by different clubs. Her calculus students read and analyze journal articles focusing on topics such as gender gaps in education and specifically in math achievement.

With work published in journals including Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering and The Mathematical Scientist, Camacho has displayed an ability to cross disciplines in her research. She collaborates with life sciences professors in New College’s Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences on projects that apply mathematical modeling to gene functions in cells. For the last two years, Camacho has collaborated with a George Mason University sociologist to model the dynamics of workforce migration of highly skilled scientists. They are studying various aspects of this problem including the factors that affect this migration from the perspective of both the individual and the country. This spring, Camacho and an undergraduate student will work on mathematically incorporating a multitude of political aspects into this project.

Camacho said she has been fortunate to have mentors helping to guide her. First there was Escalante, who was portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver." It was in 1990 that Camacho entered Escalante’s algebra classroom at Garfield High School. Then in 1996, when she was an undergraduate student at Wellesley College, Camacho was the first student admitted to the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute (MTBI), a summer program established by Carlos Castillo-Chavez at Cornell University. Its goal is to increase the number of Ph.D.s from underrepresented U.S. populations in fields where mathematical, computational and modeling skills play a critical role.

In 2004 the MTBI program, and Castillo-Chavez, relocated to ASU. Castillo-Chavez is a Regents’ Professor and the Joaquin Bustoz Jr. Professor of Mathematical Biology in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change on ASU’s Tempe campus. He also is director of the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In 2003, Camacho became the first former MTBI participant to earn a Ph.D. when she completed her doctorate in applied mathematics at Cornell. She then spent a year as a postdoctoral research associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Camacho next held a tenure-track faculty position at Loyola Marymount University, while also co-founding and co-directing the Applied Mathematical Sciences Summer Institute, with a mission similar to the MTBI program at ASU. She joined ASU’s New College in 2007.

Castillo-Chavez, who has continued to serve as a mentor to Camacho, told Diverse that “she is playing a critical role in building applied mathematics at our West campus, where they are building a top-notch computational program with emphasis on applications to biology.”

“From fostering interdisciplinary collaborations to helping build our new program in applied mathematics, Erika has made significant contributions to the" target="_blank">Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in a relatively short period of time,” said Roger Berger, the division’s director. Mathematical and Natural Sciences students pursue bachelor’s degrees in applied computing, applied mathematics and life sciences (with or without a pre-med option). The division also offers minors in chemistry, life sciences and mathematics, as well as a mathematics concentration for secondary education majors.

“Erika’s inspirational life story serves as a source of motivation for many of our students,” Berger said.

More information about Camacho’s life story and professional accomplishments can be found in the article about her that was published in the Jan. 7 issue of Diverse. The article is at">">