Carla Dee Ellis
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.
Carla's father was an aspiring cartoonist, and she had studied painting in college. Inspired by Andy Warhol's subject matter, style and factory techniques, Carla was quick and prolific, mostly painting portraits of pop icons. I remember one weekend just before Christmas when she created more than a dozen 12” x 12” canvases to give to friends, projecting images of Mick Jagger, Elvis, Li’l Abner, Daisy May and then working with acrylic, spray paint and glitter.
Carla came to New York with ambitions to be an artist but she was soon also working as a fashion model. Only days after arriving in the city a photographer stopped her on the street and hired her for an advertisement that needed a California blonde. A week later when we were demonstrating outside of a Richard Nixon fundraiser, Carla was approached by a tuxedo-clad Huntington Hartford who was attending the dinner. Hunt as he was called invited the two of us to come by his Show magazine office and arranged an appointment for Carla with the Ford Modeling Agency who instantly took her on.
Carla enjoyed good success with her brightly colored, subtly abstract canvases that she signed “Carla Popcorn.” She never had a gallery show in New York but one dealer attached to the prestigious Richard Feigen Gallery sold a couple of her Mick Jagger paintings to young collectors. Her works could also be found on the walls of friends 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.