In 2018, the New York City Ballet invited Shantell Martin to create a large scale art installation in collaboration for the company’s annual Art Series. She began with a series of one-on-one interviews with the company’s dancers to build empathy between artist and subject, seeking to understand the dancers’ relationship to their body, the company and the process of nurturing the vulnerability of self expression. As an artist devoted to her own rules of engagement -- lines and primarily monochromatic black and white imagery -- Martin found relatability in the structure and tradition of dance, the rules of choreography and parameters of a ballet company. She carefully observed movement across various genres from traditional Nutcracker rehearsals to the original contemporary pieces of resident choreographer Justin Peck, and her lines changed with the energy of each piece, until “the dancers turned to lines and shapes, and faces began to disappear.”
The conversation between the movement and flow of bodies and the oft repetitive piano cadence of rehearsals pushed her work into a greater abstraction which she later punctuated with words and phrases from her interviews. Martin's’ work culminated in 10 large framed art pieces inspired by her interviews, thirty-six towering canvases displayed in the promenade of Lincoln Center, and a massive floor piece under guests’ feet as they mill the pavilion. Inspired by the soloists, principal dancers, and company newcomers she interviewed and observed, Martin found her signature meditative practice in collaboration, her pen dancing alongside her subjects.