Erin Shaw | The Stream of Stories

Erin Shaw is a painter of borderlands, the spaces between worlds. Her art faces the dualities we all carry inside of us, synthesizing them into understanding through narrative. As a visual storyteller, the child of an Oklahoma farm, Erin tills the rich soil of dichotomy, growing art where the known meets the unknown. 

As an American Indian (Chickasaw-Choctaw) artist, Erin creates in a state of tension, suspended between two worlds. Humor pervades her art and reveals truths in unanticipated ways. The trickster, a disruptive force who turns us about until we see something new, appears throughout her work. 

Erin earned her BFA in studio art from Baylor University and her MFA from the University of Oklahoma. She teaches art at the University of Central Oklahoma while also exhibiting her work throughout the United States. She currently lives and works in Oklahoma City with her husband, son, and a shoe thieving bird dog.


The Stream of Stories
by Samuel Shaw, age nine

Once upon a time there was a story that I was supposed to tell, but I had forgotten. I had to work very hard at remembering. So I dove into the stream of stories and found it on a purple colored current. The current took me to a far away place sometime ago. I found an opening and set up camp, made a fire and went to bed. 

In the morning I was awoken by five birds, one of them paled in comparison to the others. The birds were talking about a time before creation. Which the not so colorful bird seemed to know a lot about. They all listened intently as the not so colorful bird took one wing and cut open a sliver in time and space itself. 

He told them to look in so they all stuck their heads inside. One of them came out and said, but it's just a void why would you show us this? The not so colorful bird said look again and you will see something. They all looked back in and saw a glimpse of something shiny and polished in the distance. It got bigger and bigger and started to look like a key. All of the birds ducked as it flew out. The not so colorful bird caught it with his wing and closed the sliver. 

He said this is the key that unlocks the gift inside of everything or everyone. Some people know about it some people do not. We are about to talk about someone who does.


Artist Statement | My work as an artist rests in this simple assertion: We are collectors of stories and the stories we collect shape the people we are. In narrative style, I create paintings engaged in story: both its function and its telling. I see my role in this process as mediator and disrupter: standing between two opposing things, separating them, placing boundaries in new and unusual places and joining them once again. I work in this manner that I might see things in a new way.

Curator's Statement | Cynicism is easy. Suspending disbelief is not. But imagine for a moment, for a brief sliver of your life, you have re-entered an era in which make believe is common practice and creativity is uninhibited. 

Welcome to The Stream of Stories, where there exists a curiosity about what it is like to be a live human moving around inside a storybook. It’s like a wrinkle in time, and you can move from one part of the story to another as easily as you can blink your eyes. Erin Shaw has presented us with this magical opportunity. Erin’s art has always focused on how stories hold the power to provide our lives with direction and meaning. Stories help us make sense of the world. 

For The Stream of Stories, Erin collaborated with her son Samuel, age nine. Samuel wrote the literal story on which this artwork is based. In The Stream of Stories, every story that has ever or will ever exist shimmers before us, prepared to support the adventure that unfolds. The collaboration with Samuel includes the story as well as some drawings. With a heart for inclusion and a desire to broaden the community of makers involved in this project, Erin opened the collaboration to the public, inviting kids to create drawings of the characters described in Samuel’s writing. 

Dozens of children created many variations of birds, campfires, and tents. Erin transformed those drawings into an immersive installation, inviting you to become a part of the story. Understanding that there is no right or wrong when it comes to mark making, young artists create drawings without hesitation, without deliberation. As we get older, as we become more self-conscious, that freedom to create intuitively tends to disappear. 

Erin embraces and celebrates that confidence, transforming it tenfold into a bold, highly energized exhibition for all ages to enjoy. 

This exhibition was created with help from Samuel Shaw, James Shaw Jr., Kiana Daneschmand, Marilyn Karper, Natasha Hoskins, and Matthew Hanner.