Shantel Miller

Between the Linoleum & Me

curated by Diallo Simon-Ponte  

oil on canvas

Bringing the private to the public, while not compromising your authentic vulnerability is a feat few are able to accomplish with the ease that is articulated as such in Shantel Miller’s work. The daughter of Jamaican ministers who immigrated to Canada, it is her spiritual upbringing and continued lived experiences as she concludes an MFA from Boston University that she revisits in her paintings. Pulling from personal narratives, many of her figurative pieces look to encapsulate the experiences of black women and craft a window into plot lines that exist outside of the dominant stream.

In this exhibition, Between the Linoleum & Me, Miller captures the intense intimacy one shares with(in) the bathroom or what she calls the washroom due to her Canadian nationality. Across the three works Woman in Tub, Lukewarm, and Suffering she poses an introspective outlook at black femininity and what it means to exist in private, between those four walls. This collection is about the conversation one has with the architecture, design, and linoleum makeup of a washroom. As the repetition of entering that space of cleansing cements itself in daily routine, many movements in the washroom to us appear mundane. Here Miller entombs the regular and excavates narrative, where we once perhaps were blind to the active story we are always writing. Enunciated in these pieces is the profound ontological dialogue that the body and flesh communicate with its surroundings. How we entrust space to embrace (possess) our stories, what worldviews we drag around with us, and how our body language engages with scenery are all notions she suggests the viewer reconsider.

oil and graphite on canvas

Toying with temporality in Suffering, Miller leaves some of the sections unfinished, but also returned later to draw back on top of her completed painting. The distinct appearance of stages of process fuse with the gestural allusions of internal dilemma. Paired, they form multiple dimensionalities of individual development. These compositional decisions interact with our depicted character in a fashion that carries the poetic gravity of a Toni Morrison novel affectionately sculpted and caressed down to fit into eight by ten inches. Her story is layered – informed by color, architectonic lines, and corporeal insinuations.

Miller unflinchingly invites us into the private. We the viewer are seated, intentionally positioned at a location of interiority, evident in the choice to use her own body as a model. She allows us into her vulnerability, into her pain, into her secrets, into her contemplation, and into her routine. Shantel entrusts herself to the linoleum.

Woman in Tub
mixed medium on Paper 

For inquiries, please contact:

Artist: Shantel Miller ︎
Curator: Diallo Simon-Ponte 

©Black Art Sessions