My Work, A taste…
I am a writer of poetry, creative nonfiction, journalism, a visual artist and public intellectual actively participating in the cultural discourse with work that has been widely featured. To put it simply, I am a practitioner of entanglement. I connect and engage with a collection of areas. Exploring the connections that extend beyond the categories or boxes we prescribe to places, things, and ourselves, is what excites me the most. Can you limit your life to a “one thing”? As humans, do we truly have only a singular purpose? Or are we intermeshed with things, energies, peoples, places in ways that defy our attempt at confined labels and definitions?
I would not want my work to fit within such a claustrophobic space.
When I am creating either through photography, through words, or another vehicle, I seek to explore the different ways to connect that concept or inquiry across different modalities.
At the heart of exploring different points of connection and entanglement across ranges of artistic and professional works is my voracious appetite and boundless energy for inquiry. In other words, for me, it is not good enough to exchange titles or names with others because it does not bring me to the real heat and depth of what I encounter. I am interested in tasting what is several miles or many years underneath the surface through an exchange that is also the act of discovery. This kind of excavation requires releasing assumptions of what I might encounter.
I also seek to be informed by a process that births work that goes on to have its own life. One that invites another level of inquiry and discovery between the work itself and any audience experiencing it. I seek to bring myself and others to places that are excavations into unknown territories in ways that may unseat all of us from what we think we know within or outside of ourselves.
A Glimpse Into She That Is Her…
I have a weakness for all things horror, histories that involve the things that are so strange they seem like fiction, and almost anything within the realm of the supernatural makes my heart go thump. Given some of these quirks, I love maintaining what I call a list of shenanigans, which is my private list of quotes said by friends alongside the funny, the strange and the bizarre events that unzip in our lives. This could best be described as the list of impossible things (to reference my fave, Alice in Wonderland). Anything abandoned has me at hello. I love to laugh as much as I am romanced by the pursuit of critical thinking and inquiry. I also seek to engage more with my bellydancing given that performing in the past has informed so much of how I approach the page and my photography. My musical tastes are as wide and ranging as my favorite pieces of literature and film. If I had to give a synopsis of me in one sentence it would be simply be this: I seek to live with full audacity. There are so many other options beyond playing the hand you are dealt (like just leaving the table or burning your card deck to start over). Also, if you are interested, my name has a backstory that you can listen to here: "25 Ways to Be Named and Nameless.
You know, the Standard/Boring One But Keep Reading Because There's Lots of Good Stuff In Here!
Shanta Lee is also the author of the poetry collection, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues, winner of the 2020 Diode Press full-length book prize and the 2021 Vermont Book Award. Within this latest illustrated poetry collection, Black Metamorphoses (Etruscan Press, 2023) is a work that Shanta Lee describes as a 2,000+ year-old phone line opened to Ovid, as well as an interrogation of the Greek mythos, while creating her own new language in this work. Black Metamorphoses has been named a finalist in the 2021 Hudson prize, shortlisted for the 2021 Cowles Poetry Book Prize and longlisted for the 2021 Idaho poetry prize. Shanta Lee is the 2020 recipient of the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts and the 2020 gubernatorial appointee to the Vermont Humanities Council’s board of directors. Her work within the humanities includes Shanta Lee giving lectures on the life of Lucy Terry Prince (c. 1730-1821) — considered the first known African-American poet in English literature — as a member of the Vermont and New Hampshire Humanities Council Speakers Bureaus. Shanta Lee also serves on the advisory for Jay Craven’s film, Lost Nation which prominently features the life of Lucy Terry Prince.
Shanta Lee's professional wingspan covers the public health, arts, local government, non-profit and other sectors. Shanta Lee is a Vermont Public producer and reporter including her original series,“Seeing...the Unseen and In-Between within Vermont’s Landscape." She is also a regular contributor to Ms. Magazine and Art New England. Her contributing work on several investigative journalism pieces for The Commons received a number of New England Newspaper & Press Association (NENPA) awards. Connected to Shanta Lee’s creative and professional practice is her collaborative work. Last July 2022 marked a special partnership with Epsilon Spires to co-create and co-create their first official multidisciplinary artist salon titled "Transcendence." This salon series includes regional, national and international artists and is a collaboration that is continuing into 2023 and beyond.
Other collaborations have included:
*Co-creating and co-curating the I AM… exhibition with the Vermont Arts Council;
*Co-writing Vermont's CreateVT, a statewide strategic plan geared towards the creative sector;
*Spearheading and leading the implementation of the city-wide Visioning a Healthier New Haven , a campaign in New Haven, CT which included a digital storytelling component and data collection;
*The planning and implementing of small -large scale events across Connecticut incorporating the Giving Women Power Over AIDS traveling exhibition;
* Launching a creativity forums series, Healing with Art and Nourishing the Inner Artist: Conversations about Art, Creativity, and Imagination which targeted creatives across the states of CT, MA, and VT.
Shanta Lee's multimedia exhibition, Dark Goddess: An Exploration of the Sacred Feminine, which features her short film, interviews, and photography, and other items selected by Shanta Lee from within the Fleming Museum's collection, is currently on view at the Fleming Museum of Art. Dark Goddess started with an initial idea and inquiry: Who or what is the Goddess when she is allowed to misbehave? Who is the Goddess when she is allowed to expand beyond bearer of life, nurturer, and all of the other boxes that we confine women to within our society? Dark Goddess is a mix of ethnography, cultural anthropology, an exploration of the sacred feminine, and a co-creation with each of the individuals featured.
Shanta Lee teaches poetry at Wilkes University and media studies at The Putney School. She has an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction and Poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, an MBA from the University of Hartford and an undergraduate degree in Women, Gender and Sexuality from Trinity College.
Other Ways to Learn About Shanta Lee
Tube Socks & Secrecy (Destigmatizing our bodies with storytelling)
A collaboration between Myovant Sciences and HealthyWomen
Stories to be told in 'Voices’:What does it mean to be an authentic self? Manchester Journal
Art in the Time of COVID: Shanta Lee Vermont Arts Council
Photography Show In Brattleboro Celebrates 'Perfect Imperfections' Vermont Public with Mary Engisch
Collaborations & Leadership
Art Review: 'I AM…' Seven Days
ARTstravaganzaOffers Potpourri of Creativity Rutland Herald
From Ghetto to Granola: A Talk About Racism Vermont Public Radio with Jane Lindholm and Ric Cengeri