It’s early afternoon on Labor Day and summer shows no signs of slowing, but one Brooklyn-based artist is still hard at work. Shantell Martin greets me with a big smile as I enter Black and White gallery in Williamsburg.
It’s hot inside, “Summertime Clothes” by Animal Collective is playing on an iTunes mix, there’s a standing fan in the center of the room and the sweet smell of a woman at work. Martin, the Central Saint Martins graduate who’s best known for her light projections and free association sketches, has a long history of working to, and along with, music.
On September 4 at Milk Studios, Martin had the beats of DJ Ana Caldreon to inspire her drawings on the arms, legs and faces of partygoers for the Ben Watts launch of the photography app he developed with HTC smartphones. While she’s done live performance drawings in the past, at Milk her sketches already covered the front windows of the gallery. Martin was free to interact with guests, and fully armed with felt tips.
Back at Black and White Martin’s already admitted to me that she’s practicing on some of her friends with a tattoo gun she’s bought. A man walking his dog sticks his head through the front door, curious. Martin invites him back to see her work during her opening reception for her new exhibition Continuous Line. She gestures to the walls with a handful of markers to explain her exhibition.
The large white walls of the space are filled with Martin’s signature landscapes and characters. She’s been working on them for two weeks now and she’s still got another two weeks ahead of her until showtime. In addition to her drawings, Martin’s bringing in objects from home she’s repurposed for the exhibition - anything to make the space feel “less like a gallery.”
This is Martin’s debut solo show, but she’s not nervous.
“There’s this danger of moving somewhere new and waiting for people to give you stuff,” says Martin, who learned the hard way when she first landed in New York after five years in Tokyo. “You can be big in Japan and that doesn’t mean you’re big anywhere else.”
Martin struggled for her first year, but then, about a year and a half ago, she got two calls in the same week—one from the Museum of Modern Art to perform at an annual friends and family event and another from a producer at Gossip Girl for a guest spot in one of their episodes.
“And that’s when things changed for me,” says Martin. “And it felt like my bruises from first moving to New York started to heal.”
“Continuous Line” by Shantell Martin opens September 21, 2012 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Black and White Gallery, 483 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211.
Photos By: Eduardo Enrique Silva
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