Empowerment Series: Top Touring Female Street Artist and One of New York’s Best Kept Secrets – ELLE Shares Creativity with AW
The name, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy may sound familiar. These graffiti artists are well known in the world of street art which has long been overpowered by men. This type of work involves great creativity but also involves risky behavior. Working conditions are less than desirable. Artists do the work at night to avoid encounters with law enforcement. The art takes men and women to dangerous territories that pose a real danger. However, women are more vulnerable to harassment or other crimes while creating in the dark but none of it has stopped these badass women from stepping into their power.
The creator goes by the name of ELLE, an incredible street artist who is in high demand. Her artwork is radiant. Many of her pieces depict different women in brave, strong, and defiant forms. Installations can be seen in Los Angeles, New York, Mexico, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and all over the globe. I fell in love with her empowering figures from the moment my eyes laid eyes on the Pachamama Silkscreen. The image is absolutely stunning!
Elle is friendly and down-to-earth which helped our conversation, flow organically. It was a true pleasure interviewing this incredible talent. Art, whether it comes in the form of written, spoken, or movement has the potential to evoke emotion in us. The beauty of visual art is that it is personal. Two people can look at the same work and feel completely different about it. It was an honor to have the opportunity to speak with ELLE. She is a Brooklynite and a top touring artist in her field. If you don´t know of her, this is a great way to introduce you to her work.
Your art is empowering, my favorite piece is Pachamama. Bold colors, captivating imagery, filled with emotion. Who do you hope to inspire with your artwork? I am continuously evolving which makes my work feel different. It was not a choice to do art. I became obsessed and driven by a variety of things. My mission was to beautify the city, it was an opportunity to bring color to the world. It is a gift offering a moment to share beauty. Elle is the name I chose, it means she” in French which reflects my subjects, mostly women. I see myself as a channel for the universe, I’m doing what I was meant to be doing. Women can do it all. We have the strength within to do anything. I want to inspire women everywhere to pursue their goals, they have the power to create any life they want.
You have exploded in a male-dominated world. Graffiti art can take you to dark and lonely streets, sometimes creatives work at odd hours. Women are more vulnerable, they are exposed to danger and harassment that men don’t have to deal with. What gave you the courage to dare create these emboldened images and allow yourself to be seen? I was driven by the fact that there weren’t many women on the street art scene. I wanted to be there because there was no representation. My desire to create art in a world that barely included women was intentional, I wanted to be part of the dialogue.
You are the artist behind a 3,000 sq. foot crescent-like wall at New York’s Hudson Yards’ The Vessel, Elle X Ralph Lauren NYC, and a mural of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the East Village, New York City. Your work celebrates women and we love seeing it! What did it mean for you to create the RBG mural? This mural was commissioned @into-action, us. Artists get inspiration everywhere, including politics. I received a call to do a piece on Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I had just seen her documentary and understood her mission. She was a significant symbol of the women’s movement. I wanted to promote empowerment and enable others to feel they could do whatever they set out to do.
You have expressed that being a woman in the world of graffiti art is difficult. Although more women have joined the world of graffiti, it continues to be mostly a men’s club. You are one of a handful of women that have broken barriers in street art. AW likes to end its interviews with a positive message. What advice can you share with women that may be intimidated to break into a career or business that is not conventional? I encourage them to break barriers. In 2014, I worked on a collaboration with Martha Cooper for which I was super harassed. My mother suggested that I quit due to the negative comments, I was receiving. I did not quit, instead deciding to stay with it. You have to keep pushing forward on things that you are passionate about. Don’t allow anything to stop you in your tracks if it’s something that you truly believe in. Keep your head down and keep going!
AW is incredibly grateful to Elle for sharing her story with the AW readers. The journey of a woman is not without roadblocks. We meet resistance at every corner, limiting our progress in distinct ways. I hope her story inspires you to start your own personal revolution. Explore your deepest desires and follow them until you are with one with your true spirit.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.*
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