Notable Exhibitions

Paris and The Louvre beckon to Valley Artist and Lady Liberty

L.A. Life – Daily News
October 16, 1986

two french ladies

Two French Girls and one from Tarzana are on their way to Paris.
By Daryl H. Miller, Daily News Art Writer

Actually, the French girls are two representations of the Statue of Liberty in a mixed-media painting called “Two French Girls.” The girl from Tarzana is Sheila Elias, who created the work. They’re going to Paris because Elias’ painting is included in an exhibit of art and memorabilia depicting Lady Liberty that opens at The Louvre Oct. 28.

Elias is one of the two contemporary American painters whose work was chosen for the exhibit. The Franco-American Committee, a group of French and United States citizens, organized the show to commemorate the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary this year.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a local gal who earned her master’s degree in art at California State University, Northridge. Elias’ work is shown in galleries across the country and has been exhibited in Japan, Korea, Kenya and Spain. But this is the first French exhibit of her art. “It’s nice to go, isn’t it?” she asked with a grin. “Start at the top.”

She’ll fly to France for the show opening, and in honor of the occasion, she wore a rhinestone pin that spelled out “PARIS” as she talked at her LA studio earlier this week.

“It’s so thrilling, it’s just thrilling,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll believe it until I go there and see the painting
hanging there.”

Elias blazed with energy, even though she’d returned in the wee hours from a trip to New York. And since 9 a.m. movers had bustled thru her studio, collecting works for an exhibit at Stella Polaris Gallery in Beverly Hills that opens Friday.

Among the works hung on the studio walls were two paintings that adorned the set for Bette Midler’s ultra-stylish home in the film “Ruthless People.” “Two French Girls” was missing, since it’s on its way to France. But Elias pointed it out in the show catalog. It is a mixed-media work on a 60-by-99-inch canvas. At the center are two photocopied pictures of the Statue of Liberty’s face that are outlined with black paint. Rumpled sections of canvas are attached to the main canvas, and the whole has been painted with splashes of pink, blue, purple, silver and gold.

She said she incorporated the Statue of Liberty twice because “one is good, two are better. Maybe that’s the American way.”

Anne Palumbo, an exhibit curator and history professor at George Washington University who brought “Two French Girls” to the attention of the Franco-American Committee, encountered Elias’ work by chance. She and her fellow curator were scouting New York’s galleries to find artists who use Statue of Liberty imagery in their work. They happened upon the Alex Rosenberg Gallery, which was showing some of Elias’ work.

Meanwhile, Elias was not aware of a French-American art exhibit was planned, much less that her work was being considered for it – until she got a phone call. “the gallery in New York called and said, ‘You’ve got a painting going to The Louvre,’ ”  Elias recalled. “ I said, ‘You’re kidding!’ So I hung up, and I called them back, and I said, “What did you say?’  I wanted to hear it again.”

Elias and Chicago artist Roger Brown are the only two contemporary American painters included in the exhibit,
Palumbo said.

While the show opens on the other side of the globe, the Stella Polaris Gallery will exhibit some of Elias’ recent works from the “American Icons” series, including a few that incorporate Statue of Liberty imagery. It runs through Nov. 22.

Elias said Lady Liberty keeps turning up in her work because she associates it a lot with positive elements in American society. “it is an exciting thing to see,” she said. “it’s special. It’s a woman, and it’s freedom and it’s many things. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.”

She did not include color into the artwork  because “there’s no color in the streets. It’s (color) too threatening.” On the boarded entry where the man was found, “I left one black X with no glitter.” The shopping bags, of course, are what street people carry their worldly belongings around in.

The building, she said, is earmarked as “Rescue Mission Project Two”  by the Skid Row development planners. From her studio across the street, she could not help getting involved.