Shanti Grumbine is a Brooklyn-based visual artist who has been an artist in residence at the Millay Colony, Ucross, Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, Wave Hill Winter Workspace Residency, Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder Residency, Artist in the Marketplace (AIM), Women’s Studio Workshop and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. Fellowships include the A.I.R Gallery Fellowship and the LABA Fellowship at the 14th Street Y in New York City.
In 2016, she was chosen for the Smack Mellon Hot Picks program, an individual artist grant through the Santo Foundation, and a yearlong artist residency through the RAIR Fellowship program in Roswell, NM starting this fall. She is currently a resident artist at the Saltonstall Foundation.
Her work has been exhibited at The Bronx Museum, CCA Sante Fe, A.I.R. Gallery, Magnan-Metz Gallery, Planthouse Gallery, and IPCNY. She received an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?
My mother was an artist when I was growing up, so making was a part of being in the world for me. We made things together and I also knew that she stayed up late drawing after I went to bed. When I was 15, she went back to school to become a psychotherapist and has had a private practice ever since, but she was and still is an incredibly talented artist with a very strong vision.
Who has been a big influence to you in your career?
Again, my mother, I still really value her opinion. And a philosophy professor whose classes I used to audit – he made me aware of the function and dysfunction of language, its materiality and its use as a building material. And then there is the roster of artists that I carry around with me in my head – Eva Hesse, John Cage, Ann Hamilton, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Martha Rosler etc. And I don’t think I would still be making art if it weren’t for the support of residencies.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
I show up in the studio. I force my hands to do something, anything. I read something. I take a walk. Walking is incredibly simple and incredibly powerful – the action of swinging our arms and moving our legs stimulates the lymphatic system and encourages the elimination of all forms of waste – I think there is a parallel mental and emotional elimination of wasteful thoughts and blocks.
Back in the studio, I find the place where I’m capable of moving forward and I move, even if it’s just a repetitive mindless task – I try to find the path of least resistance I guess.
Doubt is always just under the surface. I try to work on the assumption that projects will always feel wrong at some point and I try to be prepared for that. It’s sort of like Odysseus putting wax in his men’s ears and ordering them to tie him to the mast as they approached the Sirens. If I’ve started something, I have to stick with it and not be seduced by doubt, illusion or false inspiration. Sometimes I even pretend I’m working for someone else on some silly project, whatever it takes to get through.
How do you define success?
First it’s important for me to feel excited about the work I’m making, so that the formal qualities support and deepen the questions I’m asking and vice versa, so that I’m growing and learning from the process I’m in.
Then, the responses from people who experience my work are important. If someone tells me that the work feels generous, that it invites them in, touches them, allows them to see something in a different way.
And then of course success is what allows me to keep going, including external support from grants, residencies and sales along with the support that can be found in a community of peers and mentors. I guess success is a balance of all these pieces with the addition of health and wellbeing.
What message do you hope your work communicates, both now and in the future?
I am always interested in shows or bodies of work that are generous and accessible; that draw me in, open my mind and my heart, move me toward the act of making. This is in contrast to work that keeps me at arm’s length, alienates me, and leaves me feeling excluded, or even uncool.
I’ve been thinking a lot about craft and the beauty that is evident in the way something is made, a certain embedded intention cluing me in to the fact that the maker cares about this. When craft is evident, it becomes an invitation for the viewer to care as well. Its not that I’m against quick gestures, conceptual works, or deskilling in general; I work with throwaway materials, I am making up my own techniques, I enjoy philosophy and theory.
I guess what I’m getting at is that to me, beauty is tied to democracy and accessibility. I want to make work that most people could walk up to and understand regardless of class or education. When people feel welcomed in, they are more likely to be honest, vulnerable, and curious, they are more likely to go deep, they are more likely to learn and they are more likely to share their own wisdom. I feel that this is a time for generosity and inclusion.