Shelby Little is an artist from New Orleans living in Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) in 2009. After studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) in Boston for a year and spending an exchange semester at Queens College in New York, Shelby returned home where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New Orleans in 2014. She moved to Athens, Georgia in May 2022 where she now lives and works. Shelby has exhibited at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and is a member of Where Y'Art Works and Art in Res. She has been an artist-in-residence at Azule in Hot Springs, North Carolina and at Nocefresca in Sardinia, Italy.
I create to explore my spirituality and process the world around me. I like to think of my practice as a productive form of play, making pieces that I want to see, paint, and wear. I’m drawn to bold colors and sharp contrast. I use a variety of materials, including colored pencils, watercolors, gold leaf, and oil paint, to create work that is vibrant and textural.
The otherworldly quality of my pieces gives them a feeling of cheerfulness with an underlying darkness. They have an inherent narrative that unfolds throughout the painting process. As I paint, I weave together inspiration from memories, dreams, and ancient mythology, letting my characters reveal themselves at their own pace
When did your interest in art begin vs. when you began thinking of it as a career/life choice?
I've been interested in art since I was young, taking art classes, going to an arts high school, and then graduating with my BFA. I think I began to identify and introduce myself as an artist after college when I realized I would continue to create paintings, whether or not I was in school or selling work.
What draws you to your particular subject matter?
I’m interested in the cyclical nature of time, mortality, the afterlife, the thin line between order and chaos, and the seemingly inherent duality in all things. I’ve found that the characters in the nearly endless versions of Greco-Roman myths are the perfect reference point for creating paintings that reflect these themes.
What interest of yours (outside of art) ends up influencing your practice the most?
Generally, I think the biggest outside influence on my work is the history of whatever place I happen to be in, especially an area's spiritual history or traditions. Growing up in New Orleans exposed me to many cultures and traditions, so I find myself interested in learning what makes a place similarly unique when I travel.
What is one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?
To not worry so much! Spend your time doing anything and everything you're interested in without question. Your interests and passions are the guide that will lead you to where you're meant to be.
What would you say is your biggest goal for this year?
I moved to Athens, Georgia this past May and am currently working out of a studio in my living room. Working in a smaller space led to me creating a series of petite paintings. As much as I enjoyed and will continue to enjoy making smaller works, my biggest goal is to build a new studio space in my backyard that's similar to what I had in New Orleans. This will allow me to start creating some larger pieces that I've been planning in my sketchbooks.