Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program

Studio Arts

Project Advisor 1

Joseph Santore

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Crags of My Father: an etymology

Homer J. Shew


The paintings in “Crags of My Father,” depict points in my father’s[1] personal history that were never spoken of by him but rather are referenced and spoke of in passing by his family. Instead of existing as absences or blanks in my mental picture of him, these moments formed crags, depressions, and distortions in my imagination. I am only aware of these moments and crags because they were spoken of in reference to his actions and behaviors in comparison to mine thus they trace lines and forms between a person unknown to me and a person whose behaviors are often reflected in me. In this way, I use my most immediate origin point, my father, K, who has been the primary propellant for my art and my deepest insecurities, as a path towards a possible original art and original pain.

Paintings being paintings, however, these works deal with a fictionalized account that is why my subtitle is “an etymology” and not a biography. The etymology of the word etymology is “the study” (-logia) of “true sense” (etumon-). The paintings in “Crags of My Father” are a search for “true sense.” These pictures do not intend to build a precise narrative arc backwards in time but rather are singular moments amidst time where a space can be found. In these spaces, “crags” or paintings the viewer is directed to form a cosmology[2] of life connected across time.

In order to create these “crags,” the paintings involve with a variety paint handling and surface techniques to create a physicality and presence to the picture. Two different types of paint application are used, one is the tradition brush and liquid oil paints on canvas and the other is the use of pigment sticks that work like large oil crayons. These two contrasting methods call attention to how the painter’s hand can be soft and washy or direct and blobby. In using these two methods, I wanted to oscillate between the cerebral and visceral in order to build a tension within the paintings that allowed for motion and vitality.

These paintings are perhaps a beginning in a series of etymologies that would work to build a continuously “truer sense” for me and hopefully my audience. I seek to value this “truer sense” because it addresses the prevalent cynicism in contemporary culture and makes space for the really important residue of human encounters and intersubjective experiences.

[1] Stephen K Shew, K for short because it is a homonym with the Chinese.

[2] Cosmology’s etymology is from the Greek meaning “the study of” (logia) the “whole/Universe/world” (kosmos); in essence the logic of the whole.

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