Elle | An Australian Street Artist in West Hollywood
There are so many things that can be relied upon at the Sunset Marquis: the exceptional service, luxurious facilities, delectable food, Los Angeles sunshine, and more. I have been covering this hotel for months, and I can guarantee all of those amenities every single time you walk through the door. And now we have Elle.
All Things Cool and Inimitable
Another thing I can guarantee is that like a box of chocolates, there are always some additional elements that surprise! Whether that’s running into an old friend, tasting a new menu item, or arriving at a cool event, there is a uniqueness and a story to every visit to the Sunset Marquis. One of the overwhelmingly cool and inimitable features at the hotel this July is our artist in residence, Elle.
Elle’s bio and portfolio could fill many pages, so I’ll leave that up to you when you visit her website. Instead, I’ll tell you what I learned from speaking with her. I had the pleasure of sitting with Elle Indian-style in the hotel’s breezeway, which is her studio for the month, and asking her whatever my heart desired. Tip: come by, meet her, and see her work in the afternoons all month.
How Did You Get Started?
“I started doing street art and graffiti because I gave up fine art. There was no public interest in it at the time,” Elle said of the artistic climate eight to ten years ago. Despite her lifelong love of drawing and painting, Elle quit art for a time and left art school because she felt out of touch with painting. This was in part because that work wasn’t getting to a broad audience.
It was only after moving to New York city where street art was becoming a cultural phenomenon that she found her niche in the art world: “The idea of creating art that was just for the street was really interesting.”
Bringing Art to the People
Her first piece was a large painting of a rat she put up one night with a friend; by the morning, blogs and photographers had written about and captured the piece. The large-scale exposure and response that street art garners ignited Elle’s interest in this medium. “I like that the public, who don’t necessarily go to a gallery, can understand or feel like they can partake in art and enjoy it without feeling like, ‘Oh I don’t know about art, so I don’t go to galleries.’ It brings art to the public, and I think that’s really cool.” Other artists were even pasting other images next to hers, small animals talking to her rat, for example.
She said this sparked an immediate and headlong dive into the world of graffiti and street art. She got really into “graffitiing” and “fire extinguishing” and discovered a camaraderie in NYC around these urban art forms. People would yell, “Elle, props!” to her as she worked, and there was a whole culture of “everyone sees your spots, and you’re excited!”
Elle Rebels with Illegal Street Art
All the while, friends were getting arrested and going to prison for this rebel creativity. On getting arrested, Elle says, “I don’t think it influenced my work at all; I was still painting.” However, it really interested me that she says there was a period of self-reflection where she felt her morals weren’t in line with what she was doing. It wasn’t the strict hand of authority, but a desire to do right by the people whose buildings were her canvases.
“Then, my interest shifted, and I started doing my first legal walls, and I could actually sit there and work on a piece. It was the first time I was able to actually to learn how to use spraypaint and actually use it like a tool to create art, and that was really interesting to me. You know, because it is such an incredible tool. There are so many possibilities with it, and you can do just about anything with it. And that’s what I’m still really really interested in and fascinated by.”
Elle began focusing on street art and murals and pushing the female element of her work and namesake. Elle, which means “she” in French, came to represent feminine strength and power. Self-proclaiming herself as not a very feminine person, Elle began promoting pink and large-scale murals of female heroines and warriors.
Art as a Career
“I love that I have the opportunity to paint and create art as a job. I feel really fortunate. And I have aspirations to inspire people to be more environmentally conscious and push a female agenda that is super positive and encouraging young girls to do whatever they want to do. I think graffiti is sort of a taboo female thing, and so I have this crew called GARMY, my girly army.”
Just to interject, I loved listening to Elle talk about GARMY because it is immensely clear in her tone and energy how important this is to her. “It’s basically about women that are kicking ass in every field and just breaking through glass ceilings. So I love the idea of encouraging young women to do whatever they want to do,” Elle continued. She went on to tell me of some typical horror stories in the art world – collectors refusing to buy women’s art, because they will *air quotes* have babies and stop making art – and how these challenges will arise, but women just have to keep going.
Poetry and Feminism
Elle considers her work “poetry,” and – especially in her large-scale pieces – she loves to send messages beyond feminism, about being environmentally-conscious too, for example. Or promoting foundations like Education is Not a Crime, which brought her to the Sunset Marquis last year. She aspires to have the people that see her art “think about their own lives and what they’re doing. You know, try to make a positive impact in some way.”
This is not only accomplished through the pieces themselves but also in her being present at the site throughout the creation of her street art. She described to me how people come up to her and talk to her and want to engage with her and what she’s creating. I was enthralled by this magical connection between painter and pedestrian. Her telling me about this experience was nearly unnecessary, considering how frequently in our twenty-five-minute conversation hotel patrons would call to her or come up to her, expressing their interest and support.
It was, in fact, cute to listen back to the recording of Elle and hear her so generously and sincerely thank people for the compliments and interest. I was inspired by her passion for what she does, happiness in her pursuit, and gracious, intelligent, and strong demeanor. A true exemplary artist! I, for one, am very glad she and I sit together in the same category of women artists.
One of my favorite things when talking to anyone who is an expert is to hear their favorites and inspirations because I always learn something. A few of Elle’s inspirations are Wangechi Mutu, who I hadn’t heard of, but of whose work I am now a big fan. Check her out – amazing collage and multimedia work.
The Dada movement was another of Elle’s inspirations, a known favorite of mine. She also mentioned Bruce Nauman, a very cool conceptual artist, and the old master painters, which at worst are a little staid and at best, the best! She doesn’t look too much to street art; “too incestuous,” she said factually.
Why the Sunset Marquis?
Then, the big question for this particular platform: how much do you love the Sunset Marquis? “Oh my God, I love love the Sunset Marquis; I’m obsessed with it, and if I could live here permanently I would!” Elle painted here for the first time in that collaboration with #NotACrime Foundation.
She is staying here for the month of July, creating one big permanent piece for the hotel and working on her own works in her public “pop-up studio,” our breezeway. This is wonderful for everyone because her world is simply and beautifully being exhibited for you all to enjoy. Of the Sunset Marquis, Elle continued, “I love it. I mean, this is the best studio I have ever had; it’s so cool. I swim in the morning and lay by the pool and eat amazing food. I am just totally spoiled rotten right now.”
“I Love Your Art!”
I know I already mentioned it, but at the very end of my recording of our conversation, a very enthusiastic guest yells to Elle, “I love your art!” And with grace and a genuine smile, Elle thanked her happy fan.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by, have a cup of coffee or a cocktail poolside, and take a minute to appreciate some original Australian street art right here in West Hollywood.