Below the surface of Shantell Martin’s characteristic black and white compositions is an artists’ inquiry into the role of artist and viewer. In Martin’s world, a work of art is inseparable from its creator and its audience, and art is more than an object of admiration disconnected from the process of its inception. Rather, she sees her work as a vehicle to forge new connections between education, design, philosophy, and technology — the glue in an increasingly interdisciplinary world. Her methodical practice of bringing the audience and surroundings into her drawings is a reflection of ever-changing time and space.
Martin’s work with institutions such as the MIT Media Lab, Autodesk and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts denote her ongoing inquiry into new models and technologies that are transforming the way art is made and consumed. Eschewing traditional art world norms, Martin’s work purposefully bridges fine art, performance art, technology, and commercial work. Her artwork has appeared in the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of the Contemporary African Diaspora, Bata Shoe Museum and at the prestigious Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York.
Like most, all high profile artists these days, they have had to endure a whirlwind of struggles and fight the constant criticism and Shantell isn’t an exception. We briefly discuss her career and she dishes some advice on how to ‘Do what YOU love because YOU deserve it’
Shantell can you tell us a little bit about yourself for those that are not too familiar?
I’m a person that has been finding their way thru life by drawing and using words, lines, and characters to create connections and experiences. I’m also a little obsessed with the idea that we can all easily say where we are from and what we do in life, yet we stumble on describing who we are at the core.
In a few words, can you describe your journey so far?
Imagine an outside on the inside on the outside, I think that about sums it up. I’m an artist that also doesn’t believe in putting the artist into boxes. My career is a wide range of my interest. I’ve been a Fellow at Brown/Columbia, a Visiting Scholar at MIT Media Lab, an adjunct professor for a few years at NYU.
I’ve had a couple of solo museum shows, been on the cover of the New York Times (Home and Garden), collaborated with musicians such as Kendrick Lamar. I also have my work collected by places like the Cooper Hewitt and to add to that I have a line of Sunglasses out with Max Mara this year. Oh, and I have collaborated with Scientist!
I’ve gotten here by caring about what I do when no one else did, by imagining a future for myself in a space that no one else showed or imagined for me, I’ve gotten here by never stopping and never ever giving up.
What’s a typical day like for you?
It’s different every day. For the most part, I wake up, workout for 15 minutes then go out into the world for meetings or head to the studio to draw and answer emails. I’m a morning person, so I don’t really do much after 5pm.
Congratulations on your stateside transition, as you relocated to the US from London. Did you find it difficult getting your voice heard and foot in the door in the beginning?
I moved here after five years in Japan. So, I experienced a bit of reverse culture shock.
You have some real hardcore avid fans, what is the most important thing your supporters must know about you?
That I do what I love and that they can too because we all deserve it.
What is next for Shantell?
Lots of fun stuff! I’m hoping to play more live music shows and expose that side of me more. So, if you know of a good fit, venue, show etc then let me know. I’m also moving more towards on-camera projects. To help with this I’ll be going to acting school.
Lastly, we love the way you empower other artists to go out there and be who they really want to be. What would be your advice to other young artists starting out?
The advice I seem to give time after time is to go and create your own opportunities and do that by using what you have instant access too. Don’t play the if game, like if I had the money, if I had a studio, if I had a mentor. Just get out they and make it happen! By the way, there is no rush.