If you've strolled through Germantown for a cup of coffee or enjoy dining in the flourishing Nashville neighborhood, you've likely come across Shantell Martin’s uplifting mural on the facade of Rolf & Daughters. The loopy lines and printed phrases join together to bridge ideas and merge faces into a community of shapes that invite the viewer in for a closer look. Martin's creative process involves highlighting conversation pieces and expressions onto a canvas to evoke a response from viewers.
Martin’s signature style features black lines on white canvases. She explains, “I used to use colors and do very detailed pieces, but slowly over time, almost like a language evolving it has become more focused and simplified while still exploring a lot of more complex themes and asking more complex questions.” Martin aims to generate a "stream of consciousness" that serves as a visual narrative. It serves Nashville well, adorning the walls of a chic restaurant. The communal tables, which promote conversing and connecting, in Rolf & Daughters is the perfect setting for conversations that Martin wants to inspire.
Photo: Danielle Atkins
Martin's work explores the idea of identity and she poses the question, "Are you being you?" As a child, Martin struggled as a mixed child in an all white family. Art became an outlet to explore her identity, creativity, and expression. Spread throughout the mural you'll also notice phrases like "Light On," "Look Forward," "Grow," and "Nash." Through her work, Martin wants to spark a sense of joy and curiosity in viewers about their own lives. She blends faces, words, and ideas into wavy lines that connect concepts and themes of positivity. This work highlights themes of intersectionality. When it comes to connecting with each other, Martin offers this piece of advice: be present. “It seems simple,” she says, “but it's actually very hard to be present. It requires that you are yourself and that you give yourself, openly and with vulnerability, to the world. But I think that's what ultimately is the key to connection.”
Photo: Shantell Martin
"Are you being you?" is an interesting question to pose in Nashville, a city that beckons dozens of people to move here every day. Whether in search for stardom, new business opportunities, or just a fresh start, Music City is an interesting place to search for your authentic self. Martin claims it's a question that has served as her personal compass as she navigates through the world. She often reflects “Am I being honest and truthful and seeking that same honesty and truthfulness in my life?” By asking that of her audience, they can also reflect on what their purpose is.
Nashville is known for its musical prowess, but the art in the city is giving the cultural counterpoint a run for its money. The city has evolved in so many ways over the past decade, not just with music, but in cuisine, art, and tourism. Martin’s art reflects that evolution and occupies the space to grow with the city. Check out Rolf & Daughters for both edible and visual deliciousness.
Heather Brown, a Nashville Guide writer
Hailing from the Old Dominion, I've easily adapted my "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan to the "Nashville is for Music Lovers" lifestyle. After moving to Music City from Oklahoma City, I've explored middle Tennessee through the lens of artists' paintbrushes and urban canvasses. I've enjoyed eating, sipping, and dancing my way through Tennessee's capital while pausing periodically to strike a pose throughout the journey.