Will Shus­ter’s name en­dures, but not be­cause of his nu­mer­ous paint­ings, mu­rals, and works on pa­per.

Pasatiempo - - PASA REVIEWS - Si­papu, Adios Amigo Hasta La Vista.

Los Cinco Pin­tores had dis­banded as a group by 1926, but its mem­bers re­mained ac­tive on their own. In the fol­low­ing decade, Shus­ter re­ceived a com­mis­sion to cre­ate a se­ries of six fres­coes in the court­yard of the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art. The mu­rals, which de­vi­ated from the more nat­u­ral­is­tic land­scapes and por­traits he made, were painted as a Fed­eral Emer­gency Re­lief Ad­min­is­tra­tion project dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. They de­pict re­gional Na­tive tra­di­tions and rep­re­sent the ele­ments of earth, air, and wa­ter; and one con­tains an im­age of the the small hole in the floor of a kiva that in the Hopi world view rep­re­sents the por­tal to the un­der­world. The mu­rals, in­spired by the writ­ings of an­thro­pol­o­gist Alice Cun­ning­ham Fletcher, were Shus­ter’s first at­tempt at mak­ing fres­coes. It was also a suc­cess­ful one, as the fres­coes, made us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods — ground pig­ments mixed with wa­ter and wet plas­ter — have en­dured and re­main in re­mark­ably well-pre­served con­di­tion. They were cre­ated after Shus­ter made a study of the fres­coes of Leonardo da Vinci and an­cient Ro­man artists along with the work of his con­tem­po­rary, Mex­i­can mod­ernist and mu­ral­ist Diego Rivera. Two of the mu­rals de­pict the daily ac­tiv­i­ties of win­now­ing wheat and mak­ing pot­tery. He used a rep­e­ti­tion of forms, ren­der­ing the fig­ures ho­mo­ge­neous in terms of their dress and fa­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics, and he brings sym­me­try to the works. Shus­ter re­called be­ing hired by Edgar Lee Hewett, first di­rec­tor of the mu­seum. Hewett re­mained close — per­haps a little too close — dur­ing the project, which might ac­count for the mu­rals’ dis­tinc­tive com­po­si­tional qual­i­ties in com­par­i­son with Shus­ter’s other works. “I could hardly make a stroke with­out his con­sent. If you knew Dr. Hewett, you know what an au­to­crat he was,” he told Loomis. “By golly, I had quite a time try­ing to get any of my­self into it.”

Five years after the Smith­so­nian in­ter­view, Shus­ter died in Santa Fe. He lived long enough to see his Zo­zo­bra be­come an es­tab­lished tra­di­tion and an in­dis­pens­able part of the an­nual Fi­esta ac­tiv­i­ties. By the late ’60s in Santa Fe, as Trau­gott notes, “Artis­tic change was in the air,” al­though to hear La Farge tell it, change had come to the lo­cal art scene even ear­lier. El­lis, one of Shus­ter’s fel­low Cinco Pin­tores, com­mem­o­rated his long­time friend in a paint­ing de­pict­ing Shus­ter’s funeral at the Na­tional Ceme­tery: — Ac­cord­ing to Trau­gott, it was El­lis’ way of say­ing the party had, in­deed, ended.

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