In Shantell's glowing presence there is a humility and tranquil patience that, combined with her unassailable artistic talent, reveals the magnitude of her life-wisdom and passion to use her art as a lifelong forum for healing. Her work is an explosion of child-like sagacity that she describes as one big mistake of ramblings with good intentions: "A two-way connection between me and the viewer with no planned outcome," she says. In other words, an honest, ego- and judgment-free expedition that leaves you feeling embraced and uplifted.
Being an outsider from birth gave Shantell the gift of remaining untouched by conformity. There was no way to blend in as the only brown sibling with an afro in a British family of blue-eyed blonds (she had a different dad), and it has fueled her drive to connect people through her buoyant and in-your-face illustrations. The repetitive play on words -- "who are you" "you are who" "do you read," and "you me we" with a backwards "e" -- confronts the notion of how close "me" and "we" are while throwing out the notion that dyslexia is a bad thing. "When you don’t look like everyone else there’s this kind of natural seclusion," Shantell says. Her singular aura makes her daily DIY uniform of paint-splattered Levis, decorated Adidas, and crisp button-down Uniqlo shirts stately.
Undeniably mesmerizing, Shantell's freestyle drawings flow from an unconscious well that requires her to be as present as a Buddha when creating them. "If you think, there's a delay," she states. The in-the-moment, black-and-white riddles fill everything from rooms to sneakers. When it comes to her canvas, as long as the background is white -- leaving room for all possibilities of thought, reflection, and renewal -- the sky's the limit. Shantell's passion for expression has nothing to do with rubbing elbows with the elite. She says that being a street kid has given her the wisdom to banish pretension and insincerity with a puff of her breath. Her work is devoid of the exclusivity that art is usually associated with. During a recent exhibition, Shantell had a deep, personal triumph when the plumber who worked in the building where she was creating was excited to bring his wife in to show her Shantell's work. "I don’t care if some 'director of something' or 'someone from the board of something' loves my work," discloses Shantell. "When the plumber walks off the street and says he loves it then you know you’re doing something right."
Rejecting the pressures of creating a perfect artwork, Shantell feels that when you focus on being more present and aware in your life, you become, as a side effect, more present and aware in your work. When people ask her about what inpsires her to draw, she answers: “Being a better person, because when you focus on being a better person you'll want to manifest what you love. And what I love is drawing."
Life reciprocates art for Shantell, in that others hold as much a mirror to her as she does to them. People, including us, have felt the need to tell Shantell how beautiful she is. Her response: "I’m trying to understand why I'm this person that people feel the need to say that to. I'm not totally accepting of it since inside I’m still trying to learn this about myself. Who I am is still an open, unanswered question."
xo Elisa & Lily
Video Edited by Gregory Pescia.
Music: "Left To Wonder" by Wall