15 Minutes with Shantell Martin

When you experience Shantell Martin’s work in person, or hear her speak, your life changes. You begin to think in a more complex way and see the world from a new perspective. Known for covering almost any surface with her profound black-and-white art, composed of impactful words, playful shapes and figures Martin makes a simple black line dance, leaving you questioning "Are you you?" Having recently launched a robust collaboration with Puma and working with Google on their new augmented reality graffiti experience, Martin is changing the way we all interact with art.

You just created a text-heavy mural for Airbnb's headquarters. How did you choose the words?
When I’m working on a wall commission I want it to be truly relevant to the people who will be spending time with it. To do this, I immerse myself in the space beforehand, meeting and talking with viewers and asking the commissioner for words. Airbnb wanted words like "host," "village" and "bridge" to help inspire the piece as they were meaningful for the company’s mission and values.

What do you hope people will feel while walking on the Denver sidewalks covered in your work?
When people get to interact with my art by actually walking all over it, I hope they feel a sense of balance, of space or freedom, while also admiring how fun and playful it is.

Why is it important to ask ourselves “Are you you?”
It’s so important. We are out in the world, making, creating, working, connecting, building, destroying and so on, but why? As people we become more and more competent in describing what we do, where we are from and the roles that we play in life, but we also are moving further away from knowing who we are at the core.

What artists are currently inspiring you? These are artists I currently love to follow on Instagram: @pollynor, @jamesjeanart and @hannabarczyk.

If you weren’t an artist, you would be? Probably an aesthetician, because it is a very detailed and focused job.

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