Christopher Mantle

by Michael Cooper


Christopher Mantle’s visual work has defined him to most patrons, but his art isn’t limited to visual forms. Depending on when and where you see him, he may be writing and performing songs on the spot with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, painting abstract portraits of passers-by on the sidewalk for two dollars, or throwing your consciousness for a loop with his quick-witted deaf poetry.

When I arrived at Mantle’s apartment building, I found entire hallways painted floor-to-ceiling with murals derived only from his imagination.

During the shoot, I saw his works-in-progress (including some of the largest canvases I’ve ever seen) stacked all over the place. Besides the bed, there isn’t a place in Mantle’s apartment that isn’t occupied by art supplies or pieces in progress. Some of them have been there for months, others still fresh. I had a hard time imagining how we got most of them out of the building and transported to his regular art shows.

“When I get tired of them,” he told me in his unique south Louisiana accent, “I just white ’em out and paint over ’em. And that happens all the time.”

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