Where did you grow up and how did you get into being an artist?
I grew up in Baldwin, NY on the south shore of Long Island. I was very rambunctious- a tomboy, athletic and particularly head strong. Most of my childhood days were spent playing sports, racing down streets of asphalt barefoot and jumping into the waves at Long beach. I have always been creative and wild in spirit. Whether it be drawing, dancing, singing or performing; I have needed vehicles to express my emotions and have always sought out those spaces. I went to school to study Art Education and Visual Culture, thinking I would get to do something I loved and make an impact. It wasn't until my late 20's that I started to fully commit to cultivating an art practice completely my own. It was like one day I woke up and said "Okay, I am ready to paint now."
What in life inspires your painting?
Life, as it is perceived with our eye, inspires my artwork in the form of snapshots of memories. The way the contours of a familiar piece of furniture cut an open space or the way branches sat against a night sky during a walk home. I attribute these moments to specific feelings and cyclic patterns. I also am attracted to the way light bends and catches the tops of surfaces or particles of dust in the air. Very minute details. My artwork is mostly inspired by interior landscapes- frequencies of feelings and energy tied up and gathered in the air of vacant spaces. I try to balance both my experience of the outerworld and my emotional realities in my artwork.
What made you decide to go to college in Arizona? Did being there have any influence on your work?
I decided to go to college in Arizona to escape. I wanted something completely different. Studying art formally definitely helped refine the way that I technically approached my paintings. I also found that the Arizona landscape was healing and hauntingly familiar. I loved how the rugged plants would interrupt otherwise smooth, open spaces. The natural palette of rich burgundy, ochre and light blues also continually creep into my work, which is a nice vacation from the ever present deep blue.
Outside of art, are there other things that keep you creative?
Teaching art professionally has definitely grounded my practice and helped me to develop a creative language for myself. When you're helping others convey themselves visually on a day to day basis, you come to find there are many ways to communicate an idea which is very freeing. I also love to write when I am not feeling enthralled by painting. Sometimes it will just be an act of self care, other times I will write and sing with my guitar to process something I am going through. Lastly, movement is a major force that keeps me creative. I enjoy skateboarding, dancing and swimming in bodies of water.
There seems to be an emotional connection to what you lay down on canvas. Can you explain?
I think the emotional connection established in my work comes from a consistent nostalgia that has followed me throughout my life. I never felt like any places were truly mine when I was young. Our house was in various states of disarray and construction. Places and people were exhausted and on their way out. I was always trying to make things work and keeping up with presentations. I have a tendency to make the best out of hopeless situations and organize chaos with a neat bow. While this frustrated me when I was young, it has developed into intense sentiment toward the broken, disheveled and discreetly tender aspects of my spirit and I find that this comes through in my work.
Last great piece of media (book, movie, show, music):
The last piece of media that I thoroughly enjoyed was The Color of Pomegranates. It is a silent biopic about the poet Sayat-Nova. It is visually stunning and feels much like a waking dream. Not new, but definitely standing the test of time.
Shantaye’s Instagram: @shantayemcmorrowart