Meet Shannon Plumb

Dec 23 2010

(All Images of Shannon Plumb’s Art Shorts courtesy of the Artist)

Performance artist Shannon Plumb is a breath of fresh air. Upon first glance, Shannon is a striking blond with a quiet unassuming demeanor. After visiting her studio in Brooklyn, we were eventually introduced to a vault of art shorts all starring several fictional characters. We noticed that within these micro-universes she creates, Shannon truly blossoms like a little flower exposed to healing light. Watching her create her art is something akin to watching a child lost in the abandon of play. 

Her work is reminiscent of physical comedy in the silent film era. Shannon self-directs and self-shoots herself, thus making her a “one-man-band”. She is a veritable Cindy-Sherman-meets-Buster-Keaton-type-mash-up creating her very own singular body of work. Her work has been featured in The NY Times’ T Website and screened at several galleries.

We stopped to ask Shannon a few questions about her characters, her passions, and the upcoming art installation she’s currently seeking support on (think voyeuristic window watching). You’ll have to read further for more scoop on the new project…


Tell me a bit about your background and how you discovered there was a performance artist inside you?

My mom says I used to hide behind a curtain and talk to animals when I was a kid. When I was a teenager I would entertain my older cousin’s friends at parties by performing Mr. Chinigan (a character you draw on your chin, then hang upside down and talk). Everyone would laugh and give me lots of beer.

I came to the city in my early 20’s… broke and unsure of direction. I took a job as a delivery girl, driving a van and carrying heavy bins with plates of gourmet food to fashion photographers. One day my boss made sure I was delivering to a photographer named Mario Sorrenti. She told me he’d like me. I dropped the food and looked up and there was Mario and his crew staring at me — “can i take your polaroid?”

We started taking pictures together, and I was loving it. I got a sense of performance during our sessions of picture taking. I was making him laugh and myself laugh. I had an audience and wanted to be a part of the visual. I thought I would need to do it on my own. I couldn’t model for anyone but Mario, and my ideas for performance were going beyond the limits of what a snap shot could capture.

I found a super 8 camera, made a film of myself licking envelopes, projected the film on the wall, and I felt I had found my weapon. This was how I would face the world.

Can you explain why you choose the characters you do within all your work?

I love playing people who have a routine. A pizza man, a ballerina, a taxi driver. Sometimes characters just Become on their own. A certain hat, a mustache, a pair of pants from salvation army, and then an observation on the subway. It’s like a recipe. And a cannoli is born.

Describe this new series you are looking to create?

My gallery closed down this summer. I thought this was a good opportunity to take [the work] to the streets. To finally put my work where people of every kind can enjoy it. There’s something isolating about making art and then only a few people see it. The same people. It’s like being that ballerina in the music box. Good luck dancing for the public.

So I thought I’d make a series of videos that could be exhibited in the sightline of pedestrians. I started playing characters who could exist in the windows of buildings in the city. So that when a person walks on the sidewalk they might pass a strange happening in a window nearby. That might be my video. I have four characters shot; the woman in a burqa, the football fan, the girl saying goodbye, the mother getting her two kids out of the house. I hope to have at least 12 windows in the city filled with these videos.

Your work has been compared to Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin in terms of relaying an emotion. Do you seek to make people laugh, or is there another underlying feeling you aim to relay to your audience?

I love for people to empathize with the character. I hope too that they can relate the character to themselves. My work is about universal challenges, about distractions and obstacles that everyone endures- the heat, a mosquito after your skin, patience, victory and defeat, saying goodbye to someone you love. If they can laugh about the annoying things in life, then I’ve accomplished something. And, I’ve given something.

Music seems to be an important factor in your work. What is your favorite music you are listening to right now?

[Station] 91.5 radio from Seattle

Do you have any final words for our readers to help contribute to the Kickstarter pitch?

Kickstarter is a revelation. When I wanted to be in movies, I decided I was going to have to make my own. From then on, I always worked alone. Now, with Kickstarter, I’m working with several people who are helping me achieve a certain goal. It’s support, and love, and faith in the work. It’s like Michael Jackson in Thriller with all those zombies on his side. I’ve got a posse now.

To view all the original videos from these images, go to ShannonPlumb.com/Art. To support Shannon on her new endeavor for creating the “The Windows Series”, please visit her Kickstarter.com page and help make some good art.