People from “Wild Blue Yonder” Get Up Close and Personal

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UC Riverside Distinguished Professor Susan Straight and photographer Doug McCulloh are exhibiting work at the Riverside Art Museum

By Kris Lovekin on May 22, 2014

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One of the pictures in the exhibit Wild Blue Yonder at the Riverside Art Museum

Douglas McCulloh

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -– War in all of its devastating disruption is at the center of essays and photographs now on exhibit at the Riverside Art Museum. This Sunday, May 25, some of the people who are pictured on the walls will be in the gallery to talk about their own experiences.

Susan Straight, a distinguished professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, has written 10 insightful essays about soldiers who fought and lived, soldiers who fought and died, wives who moved families from post to post, and refugees who fled homelands for new lives, all centered around the influence of the military on the lives of those from the Inland region. The show, complete with audio recorded at KUCR,  is called “Wild Blue Yonder.”

All but one of the stories is illustrated with large format photography by Douglas McCulloh.

The exhibit is free to the public. Light refreshments will be served from 3 to 6 p.m. May 25 as veterans, immigrants and their families talk about their own memories of events depicted in the essays and photos.

An hour long writing workshop the same day starting at 1 p.m. will be taught by Gayle Brandeis, a Riverside novelist and the current Inlandia Literary Laureate. Participants should come with a story in mind about going off to war, or life on the home front.

I have been honored and amazed to hear the hidden stories of war from the people who experienced it first hand,” said Straight, a Riverside native who has written 10 novels and recently won the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes’ 2013 Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement. “The veterans and their families will talk about going off to war and coming home again.”


Bill McInroe, a Korean War veteran, discovered that the life of his pastor John Yoon, was changed by the Korean war. They are standing inside the First United Methodist Church of Riverside.
Doug McCulloh

The stories focus on the role of the military in promoting migration to California; the challenges of reintegration; issues of segregation, accommodation, community, and civil rights; the stigma of having served in Vietnam; and today’s challenges of post-traumatic stress and unemployment.

Wild Blue Yonder is the second collaboration between Straight and McCulloh at the Riverside Art Museum, which follows their well-received 2013 exhibition exploring the people and landmarks of Riverside’s Eastside community, More Dreamers of the Golden Dream.

This project was made possible with support from Cal Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Among many sponsors and contributors are the UCR Libraries and KUCR, the campus radio station. The show runs through July 27.

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