Jeremy Shantz’s studio is like the Frankenstein of all studios. Everything is built from scratch, from the desk to the mismatched coffee table that used to be a fan belt cage and the shelves housing a taxidermy alligator head and a dismembered yet perfectly manicured mannequin hand. Any other person would have neatly sat down and started the interview but I, however...in all of my clumsy glory, settled for not sitting still and kicking a full-to-the-brim ashtray off the table and all over the couch and floor. An apology, two beers and a good three minutes of ash-sweeping later, the conversation began.
It’s a gorgeous place, by the way.
Everything here I built with things I found on the street. The apartment just kind of grows on its own.
What’s your first memory growing up with art?
Well, I feel a lot of creative memories but the earliest is that of my grandma and art. Most Sunday’s I’d go up to out the backdoor to her house and she would take care of my brother and I while my mom cut hair in her salon downstairs. We’d paint all Sunday, sceneries, animals or landscapes, whatever she was painting that particular day. She yapped on endlessly, but I’ll always remember her constant phrase: “Paint what you see, not what you might think you see.” I guess it could be taken in a literal sense but it stuck with me in different ways all throughout my introductions to creativity. She was an art pusher. Summer times we’d go to her cabin on the lake where everything we’d do was creative. Pull out clay from the lake for pots; make native headdresses, lots of crafty stuff, process. I remember hitting elementary school through high school and being in the vein of art without even knowing I wanted to be an artist. I knew I wanted to be creative, but I was told I needed to have a job. This would never work.
Did you have a favourite subject at the time?
I didn’t see art as being a subject. It was more of an everyday event. I also liked a lot of math, I liked a lot of film. The school gave me the keys to this little video room that no-one would use, but I could just hang there and edit film and go to art class next door. Funny enough I finished my highschool obsessed with math and building convinced I would be an engineer. However after I just couldn’t see myself sitting in an office designing away on something when I could go out and build it. Building is my number one therapeutic activity.
Just looking around the room I can tell. It’s crazy to be able to materialize something that was once only an idea in your mind.
Yeah, I mean look at this! (Pointing at his coffee table in the making) Where the fuck did that come from? It still blows my mind!
It looks like a dismembered Mr.Potato Head.
(Laughs) That’s the best possible thing you could have see in my “space” table, I’m impressed (laughs). I see like early ‘50s satellites, Sputnik style. Or was that ‘30s? Don’t record me talking about history. I horribly failed that whole art history thing. I passed, but none of that stayed to help, even the things I liked.
It didn’t stay? Ugh, don’t tell me that cause I still have three years left of art history to go.
It’s there, for sure. But for me, I came fresh from high school with this incredible art-proction mindset and history ended up getting pushed to the back of the line. At the moment, there was nothing coming out of it for me but now I see the conversations you need to have to further your understanding with that very language within the history of art. You need to have something that evolves rather than stays stagnant. Do you like taking art history?
What most stays with me is what I discover on my own. I don’t like being taught in school but I guess it’s interesting because they teach it to you within a context..you learn the politics, the society, the mindset of an era and how it affected art. It’s interesting to see the whole sociological aspect of it and how the same can be applied today.
in Vancouver at Emily Carr I had a great teacher, Art Perry, the only art history teacher whose class ever stuck. He would come to class just so amped, holding a mixed CD of whatever was being made in the time and place we were being taught. He provided so much context, and in a way I could understand, giving us all sides. He had a bunch of screens, flipping through images, really building on what it was like. It was then that my brain clicked “Oh see this is what history is about!”. It was so poignant to see someone showing us this crazy symbiotic relationship that happens that evolves and grows. Still trips me out about art history. Dates and names of artists I always forget, they never really stuck with me.
Do you ever get artist’s blank?
Oh, all the time!
How do you deal with it?
Well...I think that just because my life is imbalanced, I never get a blank out of the blue. I get blanks because there is something happening in my life and it’s so easy to take that chunk of art making brain and forget about it in order to deal with the new change. However, those have been great places to create forcing the creativity from myself in order to reach those goals . You really have to embrace whether you get a blank or not and you’ve got the ability within you to work past it. To be able to sit down and explore your brain in depth is awesome. I love the blanks, actually.
** (Cue me spilling the beer bottle and another clean-up session. It was a clumsy day that day.)**
Why did I end up here or why did I stay here?
I was tired of school on the West Coast, I had given up on the system, it wasn’t suited for me. It’s not like I wasn’t doing well or enjoying it but I felt like I was wasting years. At the same time, my ex and her brother were coming here for school so I bought a Westfalia and drove over the rockies to my hometown to convert from cargo to camper. I shoved everything I had in the van and started a zig zag across Canada. It’s all documented, two months of just cool memories. I ended up stuck in the Walmart parking-lot outside Montreal, awaiting my new home in my new city.
When did you find a place?
We contacted some random lady on Craigslist who happened to be a realtor. She found us a place, and introduced us to the whole neighbourhood, it was a really cool set up and there I realized I wanted to stay and get started. The van was comfortable enough so we lived there and used the new place to open up a gallery for artists. It wasn’t very big and we would just sell beer and make rent. All the artists kept everything they wanted, charged whatever they wanted and we would save up money to pay local bands who needed exposure. It was an artist-run space with a lot of love. I miss that SHANTY.
I feel like there need to be more spaces like that.
It really changes people’s lives, the support in place was astounding. I hadn’t seen a space like that in the West Coast before, and I had been looking for it. It had been created but just hadn’t been something that stayed. And seeing people blossom in the city made me want to stay in that creative vein, I wanted to be a part of it. I think that’s what keeps me in Montreal, the people. It’s their vibe here. I’m not even surprised anymore when people say they’re artists.
Everyone’s an artist in their own sense though, no?
Yes, but not everyone embraces it, not everyone wears the hat. It’s a weird idea to grasp, to say you’re a professional artist. You’re living off of things you make up in your head! It’s trippy, not a lot of people get to have that or realize that they can. So I feel blessed to have all of these cool projects, yeah, I’m struggling just like the rest of us but it is what it is. I love it.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I just finished up a few sculptures for Montreal’s F1, Mural and Just for laughs, now im working on a few large scale paintings, murals out of town and diving back into some resin exploration. But the list goes on, ever growing and evolving, just like this Frankenstein apartment.
For more Shantz, check out his Instagram