John Shuerman Co-Curates Cartography of Desire

John Shuerman Co-Curates Cartography of Desire

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

KHN Alum (2018) John Schuerman announced the co-curated exhibition, Cartography of Desire. Though the show is closed, there is an image gallery and slideshow available online (see exhibition link). The group exhibition was on view February 8-March 20, 2020 at St. Catherine University /The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery in St. Paul, MN.

The following information is from the exhibition page. To learn more, visit the page at the link below.

Cartography of Desire

Curated by Katayoun Amjadi and John Schuerman. Artists: Katayoun Amjadi, Lois Bielefeld, Xavier Tavera, Nina Ghanbarzadeh, Guillermo Guardia, Wing Young Huie, Essma Imady, Yevgeniya Kaganovich, Mika Negishi Laidlaw, Nirmal Raja, Kazua Melissa Vang, Rina Yoon. 

Cartography of Desire featured 12 artists from 10 different geo-political locations. Taken together, they render visible a landscape where centers of power shift from controlled, illusory borders and the flattening effect of normative map-making, to a realm where the contours and profiles of place are shaped by each artist’s personal area of concern. These areas of concern range from issues of social justice, environmental activism and food to bearing witness at the border and bearing witness at home. The artists explore the threat of ambiguous objects and the tension between staying or going; they ponder the undeciphered body of text and the body as container, defined by its own written history. For these artists, the epicenter of significance could as easily be inside a refrigerator as alongside a refugee. In this world, structures of power give way to expressions of desire, the fusion of histories and dreams, where the false certainty of the map dot becomes an existential topography of wayfinding and place-making.


The work gathered in Cartography of Desire represents a longer arc of curatorial projects that found their origin in 2016 with Transplant Eyes, an exhibition featuring nine foreign-born, U.S.-based artists who were making artwork exploring issues of transnational identity and home in a new country. The show was designed to share the expressions and insights of artists with contrapuntal perspectives, to reveal a worldview that suggests a plurality and diversity mediated by the artists’ lived experiences in a host country.

Transplant Eyes received invitations to exhibit in museums and art galleries throughout the Midwest. In 2017, we staged the second version of the show at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts in Milwaukee. The 2016 exhibition occurred shortly before the 2016 election, and the Milwaukee version of the show was on view after the current administration took office. The simultaneity of these shows in the changing and increasingly polarized American political landscape offered a sense of timeliness and solidarity, yet it also challenged us to review the focus of the show as it relates to identity politics. 

The exhibition 1 Roof 2 Airs, recently on view at the South Dakota Art Museum, became the third variation on this work. This show opened in November 2019 and was presented in conjunction with the exhibition, Afghan War Rugs: The Modern Art of Central Asia1 Roof 2 Airs shifted the focus from identity politics to artists who have personal histories with countries in conflict in the Greater Middle East. Many of these artists left their homelands in part due to war and political turmoil, and their work carries that history forward in stories of loss, personal reformation, and revival of tradition. This body of work moves from the negotiation of identity to reflections on the nature of conflict and global politics, while still carrying the “plurality of vision” of foreign-born artists.

While Transplant Eyes was shaped by identity negotiation in the context of the politics unfolding in 2016-17, and 1 Roof 2 Airs sought to explore the work of artists from the war-torn regions of the Greater Middle East, Cartography of Desire aims to de-limit the show’s agenda and explore the wide-ranging concerns of contemporary, multicultural American artists. In this exhibition, the artists address personal, local, national and global topics. Their work draws attention to the networks and connections as well as the texture and contours of the human enterprise. It is a kind of existential mapping—a cartography of simultaneous dimensions, imbued with memory and nostalgia, yet also anticipation, hope and determination. The title, Cartography of Desire, suggests both a global map of origins for the artists as well as the expansive range of subject matter explored in their artwork. ‘Desire’ signals the heartfelt, yearning, and intentional human action that led the artists to where they are physically, socially and psychologically. It speaks to the unresolved domains they are exploring as artists in the social-global web in which we live. The artists in Cartography of Desire take on global issues that have local equivalents and vice versa: environmentalism, border violence, political iconoclasm, identity and human rights are explored by this group of foreign-born and first-generation artists making their home and art in a new country. 

– Katayoun Amjadi and John Schuerman, Curators

John Schuerman is a self-taught artist and independent curator.  From 2013 to 2016 he was the Gallery Director for Instinct Art Gallery.  Instinct was a contemporary gallery with an emphasis on art that honors the natural world. His deep interest in nature and human nature are visible in both his art and his curatorial work which consists of group exhibitions focused on sociological themes. His aesthetic style and social consciousness formed as he grew up on a dairy farm in southern Wisconsin, coming of age during the cultural revolution of the late 60’s and early 70’s.

He has produced exhibits on topics such as Money, Gender Perspectives, Identity, Environmentalism, Our Medicated Lives, and Human Overpopulation. 

For full exhibition image gallery, slideshow, and more information about this exhibition, visit the exhibition page link below. For more information about John Schuerman, visit his website and read his bio in our Resident Directory.

Congratulations, John!



image/work credits: 1 - John Schuerman (headshot), 2 - Nirmal Raja and Lois Bielefeld, 3 - Nina Ghanbarzadeh - click on images for full work