I began to seriously pursue photography in 2017. My 50 plus years as an artist up to now was primarily sculpture, paintings and drawings. I worked with steel, steel in combination with stone, granite and wood. I mainly worked in series, exploring particular formal, visual or philosophical concerns until I felt I had sufficiently exhausted that pathway. Integral to the creative process other considerations, other ideas took root. In general, each series of work, large or small scale, seemed to have between 40 to 50 pieces. I fabricated all my own work with two assistants, rarely working from maquettes (usually for commissions where that was expected). A reviewer of a one man show I had at the Williams College Art Museum in 1988 wrote: “Shaw has an “eye” for the truth of things at a primal level … a work profoundly archetypal without the barriers of specialized “art language.” At its broadest scope, this work contains a universal message … these sculptures grip the spectator in a time crunching here and now.” Some of the granite commissions were enormous, weighing 150 tons, other series explored small forms in steel or wood, maybe 18” in height. I also did an extensive body of 2 dimensional work, including large series of drawings and paintings. I had numerous shows of the drawings and paintings, as well as the sculpture. I have many dozens of sculptures and countless drawings and painting in over 45 museum, university, municipal and important private collections, as well as hundreds of individual collections nationwide.
In 2017 and 2018 I turned my time and focus to a “new” development in my body of work, photography. The photographs continue to explore the central themes that have engaged me from the beginning. These can be summarized best by the word Mortality, and address issues of living and dying, balance and imbalance, mutability and transformation, time, and the power of presence, of gestures. Remembering how the past live on in the present, and how actions and gestures have consequences that even define our future. Distance and progress are a stretch of the imagination. The artist imagines, muses, rolls the red carpet out for reality and for dreams. Historically, art is at the core of what integrates us with our world, our mythologies, our source of wonder and amazement.
A series of portraits begun in 2019, the No-Self series utilize photography, drawing, painting and sculpture, developing and seeking a ‘self’ portrait based on the Buddhist understandings and quantum theories of time that nothing can be made to stand still, and that nothing therefore has a fixed and abiding ’self’. Everything, including the idea of a ‘self’ is constantly changing, in flux. These Photodrawings result from the process of marrying photographic self images with drawing, painting, plaster and any other material at hand into photographic prints that are themselves worked and reworked, until a final image evolves. They capture myriad images of the non-self, caught at a moment when the art making process seems completed, resulting in limited edition archival pigment prints. Sometimes the photographic image dominates the final print, sometimes it is barely discernible, subsumed in drawing or painting. These works are built on my long involvement with the figure in both sculpture, drawing and painting, and further explore psychological identity, mutability and process. They are as much about how we see as what we see, memory and experiences as much as appearances. Aware that what we know today we shall not know tomorrow, they explore the question of identity, and abide the belief that a meaningful life is dependent and inherent in our capacity for attention and presence.
While I originally trained as a medical doctor, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, as well as teaching mindfulness practice for 25 years, I gave up those practices completely between 1976 and 1990 to pursue making art. Since then I walk those two proverbial paths simultaneously. I am nourished by both, touch the world through both doors. The two life journeys nourish and inform each other, give flight like two wings of a bird. Both professions are the path of transformation, both an ‘art’.