Gentleman rancher Hugo Granados is opening a contemporary art museum, the Casa Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, on former ranch lands just outside San Miguel de Allende, Gto. Described as a “handsome international playboy with a great eye for art, ” Granados combed local galleries and museums to create a standing collection of art by San Miguel artists, including work by Mario Cabrera, Jeffrey Brown, Martin Cramer, and Keith Keller, as well as 26 paintings by our own Jon Schooler. Schooler, who moved to San Miguel in 1963 at the age of 14, agreed to field some questions about growing up in San Miguel, the San Miguel art scene in its bohemian heyday, and his unique painting style.
Any thoughts/stories about the San Miguel artists/writers you “grew up” around? About a jillion. There was this guy named Steve Rogers. Had these parrots named “Arturo” and “Far Out.” Far-Out would say “Far Out” and Arturo would say “I’m far out.” And they would go on and on and on about who was being more far out. He had this van, and there was something wrong with it. He took it to a mechanic to get it fixed and he fixed it beautifully. It took him six months to get the parts. The mechanic took it for a final test drive and ended up completely totaling the van.
The painter Daniel Brennan influenced me the most. He was my art mentor when I was a teenager. I would go watch him paint, watch him lay out his canvases. Danny taught me how to analyze any painting and understand the step-by-step painting process. David Kestenbaum was my younger neighbor and a strong sculptor. His father was Lothar Kestenbaum, who at the time was the sculpture professor at the Instituto de Nationales Bellas Artes in San Miguel. I still have two of David’s sculptures on my living room mantle. He learned how to swim at my house. Up the street lived Leonard Brooks. He was a Canadian painter. He did the best collages. Carl Bernstein lived down the street, too. He was Segovia’s protégé. And Segovia was the greatest Spanish guitar player when I was a kid. He used to jam with my brother. Marjorie Morton – her painting name was Marjorie Hathaway – was my best friend’s mom. She received huge commissions for her paintings. I learned a lot from her at her studio. I would stretch three linen canvases for her and she would allow me to stretch one for myself. It was Belgium linen. They were beautiful. The other guy that came around Marjorie’s studio was Eric von Schmidt. Eric von Schmidt was a folk singer right around the time of Bob Dylan. He wrote the song “Baby let me follow you down” that Bob Dylan covered on his first album. What are your current favorite subjects/sources of inspiration? I never know where inspiration comes from. I just soldier on.
Experimental. I am a scientific painter. I experiment. Back in the day when I was doing textile printing, I saved all the excess color in jars. It looked like Walt Disney threw up in a jar. I figured I would end up with a big jar of brown. But when I threw it on a screen, it would come out as separate, marbleized colors. Later, I created a method in which I covered the canvas with paint and manipulated them with syringes and knives. I work fast. I don’t labor over a piece for months. I’ll do six pieces in one night. I believe in the law of averages. I would create twenty paintings and one would turn out really well. Eventually, one in twelve would turn out incredibly well. Over the years, that number has changed in my favor. Painting is an open window into the imagination. Art starts there. I begin with an idea which results in a physical reality that includes exciting, beautiful colors. Traveling through imagination I encounter colors that are alive and can communicate the same as advisers and allies. Colors are my friends. My work is more about colors and having fun with them, than anything else. When I start to paint, color is the only element that I can relate to. I believe each color possesses its own spirit. Pioneering throughout my imagination and mapping the process through oil paints and canvases, each painting ends up as a map documenting that place in the imagination. I like to do pieces with humor that reach the viewer. I aim for art that holds up, art that is positive with big energy; art that you can look at in the morning for a boost to start you day.