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Artistic Statement

It was on those buses and trains, and in public places, that I overheard people saying some of the most painful, funniest and strangest things.


I connected to their screams of rage, their confessions, and searching words.


“Sometimes I think God has forgotten about me,” she said on the bus, and I nodded because I had wondered the same.


“You see me?” asked the teenager, who walked over to me at the bus stop—inches from my face and I answered yes, because I had felt invisible too.


And the woman who shouted on the bus, “Scars, scabs. Does it look like I’m alright?” Yeah, I had wondered if I looked alright.


These overheard conversations and other encounters on public transportation and in public places resonated with me because of my own confusion, doubt, and sense of real failure.


I did not write down what these people said to be cute or to share in a tweet. I wrote them down on pieces of paper, index cards and later on my cell phone as a way to keep on the path—as a way not to drop into a well of depression, but to rise up.


As I collected these conversations and encounters I realized that maybe, just maybe, I was in the right place at the right time as an artist and human being.


It was at the Actor's Gym where I first poured a dozen scraps of paper onto the stage and performed some of my overheard experiences. Bobby Moresco, said, “You’re on to something. Run with this.”


Encouragement—it's like water and air to me.


That led me to performing those moments on YouTube (shookperformances) and then on Instagram (shookperformances). It was through an Instagram message that artist/educator Ava Werner recommended that I turn my overheard conversations and encounters into photographs.




Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I am a mix of different racial identities. When people ask me what I am, I simply say “I am made up of all the parts that are New York City.” I was photographed from 1-18 by photographer Melissa Shook (my mother).  During college, I was photographed by Elin O’Hara Slavick. I have been an art model for several prominent painters.


The depth of the human voice is a chorus of souls speaking out loud. And there is always poetry in the human soul.


-Kristina Shook

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