“Words and Lines” is a simple start to an evolving discussion

Published on November 22, 2019

Black words and drawings against a white background may seem simple. That’s because it is. But one artist has used this to make a name for herself in the art world. Shantell Martin uses her art to create larger discussions about the world around her. One of those discussion generators, titled Words and Lines is currently an installation at the Denver Museum of Art.

Words And Lines

Just like its name would suggest Words and Lines is just that: words and lines in black and white. But what really draws the eye is the application and meaning behind it all. Martin likes to use her art and voice to change the way people view different aspects of life. In an interview with the Denver Art Museum, Martin says that Words and Lines is about questioning the world around her. “It’s about expanding this narrative of creativity and freedom and about sharing that process.” This simplistic method of unraveling such dense topics is what makes Martin’s work so captivating.

But, in the same breath, that’s what could also mean it doesn’t make sense. Martin’s work isn’t for everyone. In such a two-dimensional medium, it’s understandable that some people will fail to notice the complex conversation Martin is trying to have with her audience and take the art at face value. Even though she does use short, punchy phrases throughout her work may even fail to see the words and lines as actual artwork even though so much art is composed of just those two elements.

The Words and Lines exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art is running now until January 31, 2020. Guests can purchase tickets and merchandise based on Martin’s work on location. Plus, Martin’s exhibit is interactive. There is a video projection and some pieces that guests can rotate. An article in 303 Magazine even says that Martin’s work with be all over the museum: on walls, ceilings and even in an elevator.

Martin’s Inspiration

Martin uses her art to question the world around her, but one of Martin’s biggest inspirations is her dyslexia. In that same YouTube video with the Denver Art Museum, she calls herself a “proud dyslexic” and discusses how her art frees her from the pressure to spell things correctly. She recalls times when people have insisted she know they saw what they consider to be a mistake. But it looks as if these kinds of “mistakes” are more like happy accidents to Martin.

Martin’s work could even be inspired by collaboration with her audience. In a video on her YouTube channel, she talks about how most of her work is created live. Because of this, she doesn’t have time to obsess over everything being perfect and has no time to plan. This method forces her to be genuine to herself and her message.

Other Work

Martin is also releasing a book next year. The book titled Shantell Martin: Lines will feature the black and white work she’s known for. The book’s overview on Barnes & Noble says, “this monograph charts, for the first time, the career of this prolific and popular artist, including early pieces such as “X Dot Martin” (a 2003 collaboration between the artist and her grandmother on over 70 pieces of embroidery), large-scale murals and commissions and collaborations with museums, technical institutes, musicians and fashion brands.”

Martin’s work has led her to a number of collaborations over the years. Many of them having to do with the fashion industry, Martin has worked with brands like PUMA, Nike and Tiffany & Co.

Kori Williams is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in New York, she covers events, social-media news, apps, and New York brands. She loves grammar and aims to use her voice to help others.

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