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Meet Shanti Conlan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shanti Conlan.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Shanti. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something, whether drawing with crayon or pencil, painting, or building structures and sculptures. My grandma was a teacher and would always have stacks of old mimeograph paper at her house for me to draw on, the cheap purple ink soaking through the printed side of the paper and adding a weird, haloed background for my drawings. Several of these very early creations still exist in my parents’ collection. I don’t think there was ever any question that art would play a major role in my life, even if I didn’t end up pursuing it professionally.

I was very fortunate to always have access to practice and instruction, pursuing drawing and ceramics both in and outside of school. My love for and constant immersion in the natural world influenced much of my art as a child. I loved animals and birds, trees and the sense of calm and belonging I got when surrounded by nature. While these subjects do not figure literally in my work anymore, my attachment to the natural world and the source of amazement it provides me informs much of my imagery.

My life now is both incredibly full and fulfilling. I work at Artists’ Framing Resource as a framer and designer, a profession I’ve been in since leaving college. This job not only provides a great complement to my work as an artist, but it allows me to work closely with other artists, collectors and professionals in the community.

I am a member of the all-volunteer board of Print Matters, a Houston non-profit dedicated to the promotion and preservation of fine art printmaking. I’m incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to create a dedicated space for my studio at my home, where I have the room, equipment and peace necessary to focus on my artwork.

Has it been a smooth road?
While I have always loved making things, being a practicing, a professional artist is a challenging and often frustrating road to travel. I’ve been showing and selling my work since before I left high school, but the first sale to the most recent was never a smooth trajectory.

As an independent creative professional, my job is far bigger than just making art. I have to market and promote myself, run a business, present my work in different venues and forums, and talk (and write…) about it and myself, among many other things. Success as an artist is measured in obstinacy and forward momentum as much as financial returns. I am constantly challenged to push the boundaries of my comfort zone.

One of my biggest challenges is getting my work in front of people. You can make the most beautiful, interesting and innovative art, but if the right people, your potential collectors, don’t see it, you’ve got a great collection taking up studio space. It’s imperative that artists use every resource available to them to market their work; both the more traditional venues like galleries and juried shows as well as more contemporary means through social media and personal websites. Ultimately, it’s the ability to establish a connection through my artwork with another person that means the most to me.

As I mentioned, I’ve been showing and selling my work for many years now, but that does not say that it was consistent or without major stumbles along the way. I have needed to take time off from both the making of art and the pressures of marketing and selling my work. It’s very hard to not feel the weight of failure during these times. I had to remind myself that, no matter how long the break needed to be, it was still temporary in the grand scheme of things.

It was necessary to regroup emotionally and even physically so that when I returned to my art, it was with renewed purpose, vigor and most importantly, joy. Frustration and disillusionment are frequent companions of the artist. What is most important is to just keep making.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Shanti Conlan, Visual Artist – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I work in many different mediums including drawing, collage, pen & ink, and printmaking processes such as etching, woodcut, and monotype. I love working on paper. It is both forgiving and demanding, the way a mark can be altered on the surface or instantly penetrate the fibers depending on what medium is used to create the image.

Because the processes involved are so exacting and require very specific steps, chemically and physically, printmaking allows me to work both creatively and analytically. For me, this is an ideal complement. My imagery tends towards the abstract or symbolic, often aggressive and spontaneous, but I also love approaching the work methodically and thoughtfully.

I am always trying to grow and allow my experiences and new information to shape how I work and what I create. I don’t so much consider my style or imagery to have changed over the years, but to have evolved. As I am not the same person from year to year, I’m not interested in creating work that looks the same throughout my career. My work reflects those changes and evolutions. I like to explore different themes that interest and intrigue me.

Currently, my work focuses on the physical phenomena of the world around. Being surrounded by both beauty and chaos shape me as an individual. The esoteric and the tangible fascinate me: from light, sound and energy, to geological and celestial events. Contemplating the world we live in, as well as the broader universe, gives me comfort in my insignificance as well as a deep sense of belonging to a much greater whole.

Beyond the satisfaction and personal fulfillment provided by creating art, the most exciting part of the job is reaching another person and connecting with them through the artwork. My work involves a profoundly personal exploration of my memories, experiences and interpretations of external information. I am often surprised and very gratified when another person has their own personal response to the work. They may not see or feel the same thing I do, but the depth of those feelings are comparable and communicated through visual language.

To know that people collect my work because they fall in love with it as deeply as I do, and are willing to invest in it, is the highest honor.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
When I first moved to Houston with my family in the mid 80’s, it was a radical change from Ann Arbor, Michigan where I grew up. Not surprisingly, it was very difficult for me as a teenager to find a sense of security and community in my new home. That became exponentially easier when I was accepted into the visual arts department of HSPVA, a school still very close to my heart and a place that exemplified the very best of Houston throughout its existence.

In the decades since High School, I’ve lived in several different places around the country, earning my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before moving on to other cities. I was surprised when, around 10 years ago, I started to realize that I wanted to move back to Houston. I wasn’t happy where I was living, my family and many friends were here, and the city had changed dramatically, in both positive and negative ways, in those intervening years. Aside from my personal connections, the biggest draw for my return to Houston after a 20-year absence was the growth of the arts community throughout the city.

I love that I have had the opportunity to work and become friends with so many amazing artists of all disciplines, as well as other passionate supporters of and professionals in the arts. Houston is rightly getting the recognition it deserves, both nationally and internationally, as a cultural center of diverse people and experiences voiced through the arts.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ed Roberts, Spire Studio LLC

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

2 Comments

  1. Ann

    June 21, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    I love seeing this artwork. Beautiful and evocative thank you for profiling this local artist

  2. Betty Fleming

    June 21, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Shanti Conlan’s expression in the interview about her work matches the beautiful illustrations. I have a piece of her work and find in it a calm and meditative space within the frame. Thank you for this exposure of a worthy local artist.

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