Challenging the Status Quo from Alleys to Galleries, ELLE Carries the Torch for Female Artists

 

Pressure is a powerful motivator. As the international art community gathers in Miami Beach for Art Basel each December, artists of all disciplines enter an atmosphere of intense creativity — and heightened judgment.

Brooklyn-based ELLE is no stranger to the obstacles of pursuing her artistic passions. Before ever dreaming up a mural for Art Basel’s famed Wynwood Walls, ELLE’s early artistic exploration was muted by limited space in New York City. Physical constraints of a small apartment drove her out into the city where she was enlightened by a thriving street art and graffiti scene.

The gender disparity that exists in the art world, heavily favoring males, is especially apparent in the graffiti community. As ELLE’s interest in street art evolved from a hobby to a calling, she decided that femininity would be the inspiration of her work. Embracing this added social pressure, ELLE still faced the inherent physical and legal risks of the highly competitive NYC graffiti scene.

Hiding her physical appearance and keeping the illegal graffiti activity a secret from her family, she adopted the alias, ELLE — which translates to “she” in French — a natural fit with both her artistic vision. This pseudonym would become a name associated with the elevation of the female presence in the city’s art scene.

The obstacles ELLE faced doing graffiti only motivated her development as an artist. Building a skill set across a range of mediums and tools enabled the transition to legal street art and mural work. Now free to engage in and display her craft without a mask, ELLE continues to challenge the status quo of a male-dominated art world.

’47 caught up with ELLE as she returned to Art Basel in 2015 — unmasked for the first time. As she builds an art career, ELLE continually shoulders a duty to represent females in the arts. The atmosphere of a stage like Art Basel only adds fuel to her fire. See ELLE, unmasked and in action down in Miami.