Our Local Artist in Action program is focusing on Bushwick, a neighborhood known for its thriving art scene and street murals, to feature Chantel Walkes, a Bushwick-based multimedia artist and photographer, in our newest home Common Gates. While her art is captivating, its meaning goes beyond visual aesthetics. We sat down with her to learn more about how her mother inspired her pieces and how she uses art to make her home feel like a personal sanctuary and safe space for others.
As a self-taught artist, what originally inspired you to pursue photography and other mediums of art as a way to tell stories?
My mom loved to take photos of us as kids and different moments she thought were worth capturing. As I grew up, I started to become a little annoyed with the constant desire to take photos until I realized the value of having photos to reflect on and define those memories. I began to look at the world around me, almost like it was the first time, and saw things I wanted to capture and remember. From curious places to inspiring people, I began to love photographing unique moments and aimed to create stories to share.
In terms of art in general, this has been my way of coping through difficulties experienced in my life. Art has become my therapy and my voice. Admittedly though, I never had the desire to share anything I’ve created because it was so personal to me. It wasn’t until I started to think about how others going through similar issues might also be able to heal from my art, that I started to share my work.
Why do you think it’s important to fill your home with art that you connect with?
When buying art, I often take so long choosing the “right” piece for me. A lot of talented artists have beautiful works, but picking the one you connect with is something I find to be very important. For example, when you invite people into your home, you’re more reserved with who you allow in your space simply because your space is sacred to you. Similarly, art is something you should have a special connection with and that moves you to incorporate it into your personal space.
How can physical art prints change the design of a space in a way digital art cannot?
Before I started really creating art as seriously as I do now, I would love to fill my space with all forms of art. From artworks found at local thrift shops, to sculptures and objects! The impact it made was not only reflected in my home but also in my mood. Because I had all this art surrounding me daily, my space really became my safe haven, comfort and inspiration. Digital art cannot replace that feeling of having something tangible that you can experience for yourself. It definitely adds to the story of your home.
What’s your favorite local spot in Bushwick?
I’ve only lived in Bushwick short of a year so I was still exploring and discovering things right before the pandemic hit. Due to the pandemic, I haven’t been able to really find “my spot” but I hope to soon!
What’s your favorite place?
I have a few favorite places so it’s hard to generalize. Here in New York, my current favorite place is Trader Joe’s and I’m confident it will continue to be my favorite place. Back home in Toronto, my favorite place was definitely my local record shop, Play De Record, and the thrift stores!
From where do you draw inspiration for your art?
Having been created by one — strong black women are the foundation of my inspiration.
If you could only use a few words, how would you describe your work?
What upcoming project are you most excited about?
I’m currently working on bigger art pieces and aim to eventually have a show in the future! If anyone is interested in staying up to date with my projects, they can easily find me on Instagram or find limited edition prints on Mrkt Gallery shop.
Chantel’s work is featured in Common Gates, a modern coliving building complete with a coworking space, lounge, rooftop, courtyard, and even in-suite laundry! Members at Common Gates get a private bedroom in a fully furnished shared space, all the household essentials, WiFi, utilities, and even weekly cleanings of all the shared spaces in each suite with rent starting at just $1,309 per month.
Want to see more of Common Gates? Head to our website to explore virtually, or book a tour today!