“The stuff all around me, all these little things that I’ve collected, I really enjoy most of them, visually, there’s a lot of stuff to them that I enjoy.”
John Schroeder was the elder statesman of the group which came to be known as the “Young Turks,” artists living downtown who were friends with filmmaker and performance artist Stephen Seemayer.
Schroeder was part archeologist, part geologist, part assemblage artist: He would find relics of the past — such as animal skulls, fossils and geodes — bring them back to his studio at 761 S. San Pedro St. and either sell them or make simple, poetic compositions of understated beauty.
“I very seldom think about making art. A lot of people make art, that’s what they do. But that’s just kind of a facet, there’s so many kind of reflections. I like the things for their poetic qualities. Sometimes you can put these things together and give a certain kind of arrangement … it’ll be like a dream or give you an emotional kind of response to it. I’m after things of that sort, things that are not really articulated.”
His interest in the origins of life and the evolution of man was equalled only by his compassion for the less fortunate who peopled the alleys and parking lots around his studio.
“All the people on the streets, people that are fighting demons that we can’t see … people that society’s rejected, people that nobody wants. … It’s real sad. You can’t reach everybody. You can’t try to save everybody.”
Schroeder lived and worked downtown throughout the 1980s and ’90s. He eventually moved his studio to the Brewery Art Colony and bought a house with his wife, Waynna Kato, in South Pasadena. He continued to sell fossils and make art at his Brewery studio until his death in 2004 at the age of 61.
As eulogized in an obituary on the Brewery’s online journal, Schroeder “had a playful sense of humor and deep spirituality based in nature. He was a kind man, which is more than you can say about most people.”