Lost Man Blues: Jon Schueler — Art and War is a landmark exhibition that encompasses one of the persistent motifs that Abstract Expressionist artist Jon Schueler infused into his paintings and wove into his writings—his experiences during World War II when he served as a navigator in the U.S. Army Air Corps. His war memories and undiagnosed PTSD haunted him and continually found expression in his post-war work.
Following medical retirement in 1944, Jon Schueler embarked on a career path of painting, first in San Francisco and then in New York. In 1957, after successful exhibitions, he consciously chose a kind of creative exile and went to Mallaig, a small fishing village on the west coast of Scotland in sight of the Isle of Skye. Without fully understanding why, he centered himself in this rugged, volatile environment for months at a time over decades, painting quickly in inspired bursts of energy charged with his full life force. The weather and light of this area became a touchstone for his preoccupation with the power of nature—whether expressed tumultuously or in subtle and hardly visible forms. Vigorously responding to the emotions evoked by the clouds, sky, sea and land, he lived, in a way, inside of his paintings, and without realizing it, slowly started healing his unseen war wounds.
Lost Man Blues: Jon Schueler — Art and War will, for the first time, feature a collective group of fifteen paintings that reflect Jon Schueler’s war experiences. Adopting a perspective from the skies, these oils, painted in NY from 1979 – 1989, form a powerful and cohesive visual testament to his post-war struggles, battle for memory and creative expression. In addition, there are eleven paintings that serve as a visual counterpoint—reflecting his emotionally charged responses to nature and his memories of the changeable skyscape and seascape of his beloved Scotland.
Lost Man Blues takes its title from the painting in the exhibition commemorating the disappearance of a plane belonging to his squadron, one that did not return to England after a bombing mission over Germany. A selection of passages from “The Sound of Sleat: A Painter’s Life”, Jon Schueler’s memoir, will accompany the paintings in the exhibition, reflecting both his harrowing war recollections and ruminations on his creative process.
Marissa Roth, Curator, 2018
The exhibition Lost Man Blues: Jon Schueler—Art and War was curated by Marissa Roth and was inspired by her on-going dedication to addressing the consequences of war. Roth feels that Schueler’s breathtaking output as an artist, and his unyielding quest for truth, offer valuable insight into the way he came to terms with his lingering war trauma through his own creative powers. The exhibit will tour from 2020 through 2022, with the possibility of an extension into 2023.The first showing is at Redding Art Museum, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA from January 31-April 26, 2020.