Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
The artist Shantell Martin introduced her second NFT drop on Nifty Gateway on January 29, which considered the purpose of art in the series “The Importance of Conversation.” Building off her debut on the NFT platform—“The Importance of Process,” which focused on the act of creation itself, not the finished product—Martin’s latest series employs the artist’s signature black and white illustrative style to ignite internal dialogue and better connections with the world around them.
The namesake of the series is a video, where Martin presents us with a moment of vulnerability when speaking directly to the camera, describing how the lines of artwork can act much like words—tools by which one can converse and gain a higher understanding of themselves. Detailing the importance of self-exploration and nonverbal communication to unlock a better understanding, Martin’s video is accompanied by five animated NFTs. Each was available in multiple editions, posing tidbits of wisdom or thought-provoking questions like “Knowing is Growing” and “Does progress really exist or is it the scenery that changes?”
Whitewall caught up with Martin just after the drop to learn more.
WHITEWALL: Tell us about “The Importance of Conversation.” How does it draw from “The Importance of Process” and what was the catalyst for these like series?
SHANTELL MARTIN: The catalyst for the initial collection, “The Importance of Process” was that so much of the work out there, especially in the digital NFT space, can feel very result-driven. But for me as an artist, it feels like the work is done at its most connective and liberating place when I’m actually in the process of making it and the reward is the act of making not what comes next, so to speak.
I wanted to expand on this through exploring a “conversation” as a foundation for the creative process but also the result of it. “The Importance of Conversation” felt like the most organic direction to take following “The Importance of Process.” Especially looking at the world we live in today, it feels like the most vital yet challenging thing to engage in is healthy and important conversations that are not in a vacuum and only contain one perspective or narrative.
A lot of the work I make is about identity and understanding who you are at your core and I think that coming to a place of understanding one’s self is also about engaging in a dialogue and conversation with yourself in order to connect with others and the world around you.
WW: What made you decide to venture into your latest medium, NFTs?
SM: I’ve always been curious about exploring new technologies and mediums. I have a history of alpha and beta testing drawing programs. I worked in AR and VR very early on. My first five years as an artist were spent as a VJ in Japan, drawing digitally and analog. The NFT space is really exciting and I think there’s always been a part of my practice that’s focused on expanding my work into new territories so it’s been a very natural progression.
WW: You’ve said conversations aren’t always verbal but can be the ways you pay attention to the world. How are you hoping to translate these things for your viewers?
SM: I do believe that by being present and grounded there’s a lot that we can take in and also put out. Giving yourself to another person or thing or just your surroundings, that’s quite an act of vulnerability in one sense and I think the most vital part of creativity is being vulnerable. Being open. Being available. My practice of drawing is a tool I often encourage others to do because—whether you’re an artist or trying to create art—drawing is a really incredible and accessible tool that teaches you to be open, present, and yet highly engaging.
WW: One of the themes explored here is our perception of the world. What changes when we truly see one another? How do you your role as an artist in this equation?
SM: There’s so much to unpack here but it varies, right? Seeing can lead to understanding or knowing, which can lead to connections in some cases, and disconnections in others. But either way, there is an active participation in learning by seeing. What’s also interesting to think about is how you’re not just seeing something outside of yourself by looking out but actually in some cases where you land is in seeing yourself.
For me, my practice somewhat explores both sides of the equation, or at least I aspire to do that.
WW: One of the works in the drop reads “Does progress really exist, or is it the scenery that changes?” How are you looking at ideas of progress and growth?
SM: This is a question I ask myself often so I kind of wanted to put it out there to the world. There are still the same fundamental societal and individual problems, that vary in nuance depending on where you are in the world, and these issues have been around forever. To the point where it can actually be mindboggling and really mentally challenging to sit with. But despite this, I do find the idea of progress and growth interesting and inspiring.
WW: Along with “The Importance of Conversation,” you debuted a drop made with Jon Burgerman called “Let’s Draw Together.” Can you tell us about the concept and collaborative process behind it?
SM: Jon and I have been friends for a very long time. The pandemic happened and we were just looking for ways to stay occupied, and we’re both collaborators but we typically collaborate with others that have a different look, field, or medium than our own. But we started to draw together just as something fun to do, and what was really interesting was to see was how we share the same medium. Through collaborating we got to learn about our own approach by seeing what the other does differently and then figuring out how to bring those differences together to create something cohesive. That was really rewarding.