You-Me: A Lesson in Collaboration by Interior Specialist Asha Perez

“The biggest thing about collaborating is completely removing your ego. When you remove your ego, you allow yourself to open different chapters that you may not know about, that the person next to you may know about.” – Kendrick Lamar

Shantell Martin, a British visual artist, illustrator and performance artist has been true to her inner creative by opening herself up to diverse expanses beyond the traditional art scene. She does not limit herself, as her reach has touched a variety of industries bridging her artistry and know-how. “I work in the fine art world, in the technology world, in the fashion world and in education– I teach at ITP, NYU and am starting a fellowship at the MIT Media Lab.” says Martin.

Martin rarely draws without an audience. Her distinct, black line drawings “a meditation of lines” are eye-catching, magnetic and bring a sense of curiosity by attracting you to a variation of words that have always been incorporated in her work since she was a child, like: You-Me, Someday, One Day, Why Me, Today, Why Now, Why Here. The free-form movement of lines, words and characters integrated into her work, ignite reflective thought and stimulate natural body movement, especially when music is fused into the experience. Collaboration has been a part of her work, illustrating to live music while projecting her work in front of viewers. “The location has an effect on my art, the audience has an effect on my art... the space is as relevant to the art as the art is to the space.” – Shantell Martin

I had a first-hand experience in the setting she described. To end my 2016, I immersed myself into the mecca of multicultural influences of creative expression, when I traveled to Miami for Art Basel Miami Beach and Miami Art Week. My adoration for art and music lead me to an event where the two were beautifully combined. American Express teamed up with Shantell Martin and musician Kendrick Lamar. This collaboration between two performance artists incorporated Martin’s work, projected on the interior of the dome where Kendrick Lamar performed. “Her art has layers and when you break my music down it has layers. So it’s a great hand-in hand experience.” Says Lamar. Kendrick gave an intimate, unforgettable performance, while Martin’s work instantly inspired you. Music Meets Art was an organic collaboration between two artists of our time.

“We are able to do this as artists, we are able to meet other talented people who are as obsessed about what they do as we are and meet in the middle somewhere and create something new.” –Shantell Martin

“Creating something new” is a testament of the many collaboration projects Martin has initiated. This month, the Shantell Martin Collection was launched with Momentum Group, which is a collaboration that united Martin’s whimsical line drawings into four textiles in thirty colors. The local manufacturer representative for Momentum Group in St. Louis, Michele Land, knew how I eager I was to see Martin’s art on textiles and scheduled a showing for me as soon as it was released.

As an interior designer, this collaboration was the perfect marriage. Her artwork is strikingly embodied on woven cotton in a nine colorway collection called “Well Well Well”. Her signature phrases are layered on another pattern in seven energetic hues in the “Why Why Why” collection. There is also a pattern in seven colors, with faces atop a landscape of buildings which remind us of the stories within, in the “Places Spaces Faces” collection. Lastly, the “Silica Today Here Now” has her signature faces seen in her work on a silica print construction in seven colors. The complete collection is enthusiastic and inspiring; modern artwork translated into a comprehensive design on textiles.

The lesson learned: When you are true to your inner creative, it allows you to open yourself to share that creativity with others who may unknowingly inspire your work or reciprocally, those who are truly moved by you.

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Interviewer: Asha Perez
Interviewee: Shantell Martin

1. In the July 2014 issue of Vogue, you talked about a character "Hangman" you created that was inspired and developed from your own upbringing - Can you elaborate about "Hangman"?
In my mind, Hangman was a former businessman who decided to cut the noose and break away from his environment, the class system, prejudice and people’s low expectations. Looking back I now see myself in hangman this character with a heart and a path that was invisible at the time and needed to be imagined.
2. Liveography- how does music inspire your work? I was at the American Express Music Meets Art Event at the Faena Art Dome during Miami Art Week/Art Basel (a Shantell Martin and Kendrick Lamar collaboration). With Kendrick Lamar being such an influential and thought provoking artist of our time, would you say he and other artists inspire your work while drawing?
When drawing the line is moving and unfolding to the natural rhythm in my head, which is a familiar place – I enjoy letting this beat being taken over by musicians, sounds and DJ's outside of me as it has the potential to put me in an unknown place, which can be uncomfortable – allowing the line to move and create more freely in a way, without my own unintentional restraints.
3. Your work includes questions we all ask ourselves and spend certain periods of time, if not all of our lives trying to figure out, like: Who are you? Are you, you? How has this self-reflection help you create and be the artist and individual you are today?

For me these questions/words act as seeds or anchors in the work. These are questions that we are all faced with or comfort at times in our lives. Often I feel like we do not really have the actual vocabulary words to really deeply answer these questions – but perhaps the visibility and reputation of them allows the question to seep down deep within us where the answers lay.
4. Let's talk about Art & Design and its relation to interiors— I recently made a case in St. Louis magazine that Interior Design can and should be developed around art. I read an article published in The NY Times in May 2012 where you spoke about how your own work and drawing on the walls of your bedroom made you feel "settled". Do you believe art has an influence in design and being an artist yourself, how do you think art can be the base of an overall design?
If I really start to think about art and design I have a sense that Art being emotional and design perhaps functional or practical. However these can all be interchangeable. We are seeing more and more people wanting what's in their home to carry a message or have an emotional impact on them.
5. Earlier this year, you recently collaborated with Momentum Group to create textiles in four patterns with seven different colorways for the Shantell Martin Collection. What peaked your interest to collaborate with Momentum and what is usually the deciding factor to marry your work with the work of others? Are there any other companies in the interior design industry that you are interested in working with, outside of Momentum? If so, are any of this collaboration interests inspired from your visit to NeoCon this past year?
There has to be a few boxes that have to be ticked off for a collaboration to make sense for me – If it's not a good fit for all involved then it’s a waste of time and resources for everyone. It has to feel right, we have to be making an impact, it has to be something that can be shared, inspire and be a project that grabs my attention.
For a long time I've wanted to do something with textiles, but it needed to be, fun, really high quality and with a company that loves what they do. When Momentum’s vice president of design Shantel M. McGowan reached out to me I was happy to hear their ideas out... Plus it's not often someone with such a similar name gets in touch.
6. Your first museum show was at the The Museum of the Contemporary African Diaspora in Brooklyn. Racial disparity and the topic of race in general has been a continuous conversation for decades—and has been in the forefront of this country, especially with the recent election and video recordings of black men falling at the hands of the police. Being of mixed race, can you explain the importance of the presence of multicultural contemporary artists? How do you think black artists are represented in art, today?
It's a tough question and one I can spend a bit more time on – when I have the moment. But the bottom line is YES – It's important to have diversity in art, within the art world, within any industry – we know the talent is there across the board, but the support and opportunities aren’t. I think it's also important to see these same people be more involved in collecting up, supporting artist and having a say overall!
You can find Asha Perez on Instagram as @ashalauren
You can find Shantell Martin: