Past Exhibition

A Fiery Light: Will Shuster's New Mexico

Will Shuster, The Santo Domingo - Corn Dance, 1929, oil on canvas, 29 3/8 × 39 5/8 in. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Gift of Will Shuster, 1934 (361.23P). Photo by Cameron Gay.

In 1920 serious health issues brought William Shuster to New Mexico, kicking off 49 years of creativity, exploration, and engagement. Almost immediately he integrated himself into Santa Fe’s burgeoning bohemian art scene, and made a reputation for himself as eccentric and passionate member of the community with an unsurpassed lust for life. Shuster embraced the unique beauty of New Mexico from Carlsbad Caverns, to Canyoncito and the Badlands. The artwork he left behind illustrates the rich culture of the state that gave him a new lease on life.

This exhibition celebrates the centennial anniversary of Shuster’s arrival in the Southwest. It highlights the artistic legacy he developed here in Santa Fe and elsewhere throughout the state and forefronts the significant artistic relationships he forged here. In addition to exhibiting the artwork that Shuster produced in New Mexico, it will look at his time as a member of Los Cinco Pintors, an early group of young Santa Fe painters devoted to “taking art to the people.” The show explores his relationship with prominent American realist painter John Sloan and his collaboration with Gustave Baumann to conceive of the now iconic Santa Fe boogeyman, Zozobra.

Will Schuster Timeline:

Year Event
1893 William Howard Shuster is born in Germantown, PA
1910 Enrolls in Drexel Institute of Technology, Philadelphia (his intent was to become an electrical engineer)
1911 Disenrolls and is employed by Curtis Publishing (Saturday Evening Post) to streamline operations and make them efficient
1917 Enlisted in US Infantry (World War I)
1918 Shuster marries Helen Hasenfus
1919 Shuster discharged from Army with pulmonary health issues from being gassed during the war; later identified as Tuberculosis
1920 February: Moved with Helen to Santa Fe to improve health in a drier climate (they were originally bound for Taos)
1920 Met and developed life-long friendship with painter John Sloan (who came to Santa Fe in 1919)
1920 May: son is born but died 6 days later
1921 July: son Don is born
1921 Los Cinco Pintores is formed to help promote a young group of Santa Fe artists: Will Shuster, Freemont Ellis, Willard Nash, Jozef Bakos and Walter Mruk (it more or less disbanded in 1926)
1921 First exhibition of Los Cinco Pintores art at the NM Museum of Art
1922 Created “Covered Wagon” to use as mobile home and art supplies transport when going on sketching expeditions from 1922-1928
1924 Sloan and Shuster engage in a “portrait duel” – each creating a portrait of the other simultaneously
1924 Mruk and Shuster explore and sketch Carlsbad Caverns
1924 First Zozobra – a giant puppet now burned every year in effigy to rid the gloom of the passing year
1925 WPA also funds Shuster to paint murals for the Carlsbad Caverns
1926 Los Cinco Pintores formally disbands
1929 The Shusters begin to homestead a plot of land (off of what is now called Tano Road)
1930 The Poets’ Roundup was formed (Shuster was a member; group disbanded in 1939)
1934 Shuster is funded by the Works Progress Administration to paint frescos about Native American life for the NM Museum of Art
1935 Will and Helen divorce
1937 Shuster weds Selma Dingee Schaumannn (Sami)
1939 Son John Adam is born
1942 Son Stephen is born but dies 3 months later
1950 Shuster designed and created an award-winning float for the Pasadena Rose Bowl parade
1951 John Sloan dies shortly after his 80th birthday
1952 Shuster designed and created El Toro Diablo as a mascot for the Santa Fe Rodeo
1953 Shuster has a small stroke and heart attack
1964 Shuster hands off Zozobra over to Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe
1969 Feb: Shuster dies in the VA Hospital in Albuquerque, shortly after his 76th birthday


Installation Images