I was invited to meet ELLE, a female graffiti and street artist turned muralist, while she was painting her latest masterpiece in the parking garage of the iconic Rock 'n' Roll hotel Sunset Marquis. As the future buses of rock stars pull into the hotel, they will be greeted by a striking piece of a young woman with the top of her head exploding, and multiple hands reaching out to grab as much knowledge as she can get. One eye is enlarged and filled with color and imagination.
Originally from California and now based in New York and Los Angeles, ELLE is one of the elite, in a world dominated by men. She looks like an ELLE magazine fashion model, even with an aerosol paint can in her hand. Her talent and beautiful appearance quickly prompted Liquitex Paint to sponsor her.
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IKEA asked her to produce a piece and then sold it in every store worldwide. Other collaborations include Guess Foundation, Lyft, Vice, Etnia Barcelona, Smart Car, Iceland Airwaves, TNT Entertainment, the award-winning television show Mr. Robot and clothing companies Mishka and Mighty Healthy. Her masterpieces have been featured in books that include Street Art Today - The 50 Most Influential Street Artists, and Women Street Artists, the Complete Guide by Ian Castello.
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ELLE also made a film appearance in the documentary Changing the World, One Wall at a Time created by the organization Education is Not a Crime. The movie addresses the injustice of young people in Iran and around the world being barred from higher education because of their race or religious preference.
At the Sunset Marquis, her mural is the first in Los Angeles for the organization #NotACrime, promoting street art for education equality. They commission the world's most prominent street artists and muralists to tell a story about the importance of education through their art.
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The campaign started in New York City to make people aware of the Baha’i people in Iran. Since 1979, the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government has been persecuting people of the largest religious minority: the Baha'i faith. Their businesses have been torched, and thousands of people have been harassed, jailed or killed. Young Baha’i people in Iran are banned from studying in Iranian universities, and teachers of the same faith are forbidden to teach.
ELLE first painted a beautiful piece in New York City for the campaign. While painting, she enjoyed talking to people who stopped to admire her art, asking "What are you doing? Why are you doing this?" ELLE would share with them how people in the world are denied an education. Knowledge is power. Painting a mural engages people to talk about injustice and human rights. Sometimes it engages people more than a newspaper or magazine article.
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Educating people about this cause through art moved to other boroughs in the city and New Jersey. Next it went global with other artists bringing their spray paint cans to walls in Cape Town, South Africa. This really hit home for the local people who have been denied an education, because of their race.
Soon #NotACrime was identifying discrimination around the world and hired artists in Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, London, Delhi, Atlanta and now Los Angeles to paint their messages. ELLE believes, "Positive art is crucial for community development. It offers a positive message and hopefully a change."
To learn more about the campaign check out http://www.notacrime.me/.