Carla Dee Ellis

Carla Ellis's backyard, Thermal, California
Carla's backyard, Thermal, California, c. 1967
Carla Ellis at the University of California at Riverside
Carla at the University of California at Riverside, c. 1968
Carla Ellis at 98 Bowery (her paintings of Rita Hayworth in the background), c. 1971
Carla at 98 Bowery (her paintings of Rita Hayworth in the background), c. 1971
Sketches of Marc, c. 1969 by Carla Dee Ellis
Sketches of Marc, c. 1969
Marc, enamel paint on wooden box with metal edge, 10" x 16.5", c. 1969 by Carla Dee Ellis
Marc, enamel paint on wooden box with metal edge, 10" x 16.5", c. 1969
Marc, enamel paint on wooden box with metal edge, 10" x 16.5", c. 1969 by Carla Dee Ellis
Marc, enamel paint on wooden box with metal edge, 10" x 16.5", c. 1969
Elvis, spray paint, arcrylic and glitter on canvas, 12" x 12", c. 1972 by Carla Dee Ellis
Elvis, spray paint, arcrylic and glitter on canvas, 12" x 12", c. 1972
Mick Jagger, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48, c. 1971 by Carla Dee Ellis
Mick Jagger, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48", c. 1971
Mick Jagger, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48, c. 1971 by Carla Dee Ellis
Mick Jagger, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48", c. 1971
Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48, c. 1971 by Carla Dee Ellis
Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 48", c. 1971
Carla Dee Ellis modeling portfolio
Carla Dee Ellis modeling portfolio, c. 1975

I first met Carla at the University of California at Riverside, where she was usually barefoot and favored bell-bottom trousers like those worn by Sonny & Cher. A child of the desert, Carla was raised about fifteen miles outside Palm Springs in a small house with a back yard of sand and brush that extended to the horizon. She joined me in New York in 1968 and it was her ambitions as an artist that led us to the loft at 98 Bowery. Inspired by Andy Warhol's subject matter, style and factory techniques, Carla was quick and prolific, mostly painting portraits of pop icons like Mick Jagger. Although the "serious" art world was suspicious of an attractive California blond who worked as a fashion model with the elite Ford Agency and sometimes signed her works "Carla Popcorn," dealers could not ignore the broad appeal of her brightly colored, subtly abstract canvases. Carla never had a gallery show in New York, but younger dealers regularly sold her paintings out of their back rooms, and they could also be found on the walls of friends and admirers, such as art historian Robert Rosenblum and future poet laureate Billy Collins. Carla continued to paint and exhibit after moving to Los Angeles in 1973, where collectors included Cheech Marin and other Hollywood celebrities.