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.
Although the art world was suspicious of an attractive California blonde who worked as a fashion model with the elite Ford Agency and sometimes signed her works "Carla Popcorn,” it was hard to ignore the broad appeal of her brightly colored, subtly abstract canvases. Carla never had a gallery show in New York, but her paintings were sold out of back rooms, and they 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, where collectors included Cheech Marin and other Hollywood celebrities.