Being an artist for more than five decades is no easy feat, but contemporary artist Sheila Elias has no plans to stop. Known for her blend of social consciousness and art aesthetics, “[her] work is about the layers of life and art history”. When it came time to upgrade her window treatments, Sheila opted for ShadeMonster custom motorized window shades throughout her Bal Harbour penthouse.
We caught up with the artist and client to speak about her continued passion for creating, the influencing factors of her artwork, and how she has disrupted the art world with her digital pieces.
ShadeMonster: Tell us how you got started as an artist.
Sheila Elias: When I was 8 years old, before I always liked to draw as children, and my mother was an interior designer, my grandmother was a dress designer, my grandfather made mens suits but I never knew an artist. We were at the Art Institute of Chicago and my mother took me and I saw Matisse and my heart stopped. I said I want to come here everyday, I want to quit school, and my mother said you can’t quit school at 8, you can come every Saturday and in the summer. So that’s when I started art school. At 16, I did little art fairs and at 18 I went on to undergraduate at the Art Institute of Chicago.
SM: You recently had an art show with your children as well.
SE: My son and my daughter, who are both artists, both really good artists. They said we should have a show together since we’ve never had one. Highland Park in Chicago has an arts center that is like a small museum. We had a fabulous show there that was first postponed three years because of Covid, but we finally had it on June 17th 2022. 150 people showed up to the opening and it was quite a success. Now, we’re doing an online catalog of the show on Amazon.
SM: When did you move to Miami and how does the city influence your art?
SE: I moved to Miami because I married a man from here, my second husband. I met him in New York through an art collector who collected my work. But I had come to Miami since I was 6 years old, my parents wintered here. And I actually exhibited here throughout the years. Art Basel has changed the complexion of the city. I’m a very warm and friendly person, but when it comes to my work I am isolated, I just go into the studio and do my work. I’m in the community and I’m not. A lot of the artists here are younger and in Wynwood. Years ago I had a studio on 24th and 2nd, there was no word “Wynwood” then. I shared it with Carlos Alfonso, a Latin artist, and my husband was a wreck when I went to work everyday.
SM: Would you say that you are a disruptor in the art world?
SE: Yeah, I always do things by following my own drummer. I say that I feel like the wind is at my back pushing me through the universe, I can’t explain it. After 9/11, I was carrying my arts supplies back and forth in New York to a friend's apartment because I was evicted from my studio which was common at the time. And then I bought one of the first iPads and started painting on it and I didn’t know how to do everything. I’m fairly technology-savvy but I didn’t know how to delete things. So I took it to the Apple store in Aventura and the guy who helped me said I had to show my iPad paintings at the store. So I did, and then I showed at Lincoln Center and then in New York, Chicago, and Venice.
SM: What advice would you give your younger self?
SE: Probably would’ve moved to New York. But I was married at the time and had two infants. I did a show there at OK Harris and Ivan Karp, the art dealer, and I showed him my slides in those days and he said “move to New York, you’ll make it”. I had two infants then and I lived in Chicago so I couldn’t. I always showed in New York, but I never lived there and so probably that would’ve been a good career move.
SM: What does your art represent for you?
SE: Passion. Life force. Fantastic. Even if you’re not an artist and you’re just interested in the arts, it opens up a big community to you.
SM: Would you say that passion is what motivates you to keep making art?
SE: Oh I couldn’t stop, I wouldn't know how to. It’s not even a point of discussion.
SM: What was the last show or exhibition that you went to?
SE: I just flew to New York two and a half weeks ago, with a lady friend, to see the Matisse: The Red Studio show at MoMa. And then we went up the Hudson and looked at art at the sculpture gardens.
SM: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
SE: A psychiatrist. I did minor in psych and art therapy. And I have a good sense of people, I love people, and I’d like to help them.
What was your inspiration behind the interior design for your home?
It just comes easy for me. It’s funny, I’ll walk into a room and mentally rearrange the furniture - of course, I never say a word! My mother was an interior designer. When everyone else had white walls, we had dark green walls. When everyone had wall-to-wall carpet, we had area rugs. I guess I must’ve gotten that from her, she was always redecorating everything.
Would you say then that you got a passion for fashion from your father?
I love fashion. I enjoy watching fashion shows or looking at fashion magazines. A lot of the magazines I look at, it does spark something in me for my paintings. Even though my paintings are not about fashion and are avant-garde a lot of the time. It just does that.
What is your favorite area of your home?
I love my house. I sit in my little teeny office behind my bathroom. It was supposed to be a whole big bathroom, but who needs a bathroom bigger than that? I’ll sit there and I’ll sketch. But most of my work is done in my studio.
Do you have a favorite art piece in your house?
The horse. That horse was a gift from my husband. He wanted to buy me a necklace and I said no, I saw something I like better.
How has your experience upgrading your window treatments with ShadeMonster been?
Well they look very nice and I do like the fact that they go down by themselves. I have too many windows to walk around and adjust. And they keep the sun out, which is the main reason I did the upgrade. Everyone was so nice to deal with and the installers came back when it was needed.
What was your decision behind your particular choice in window shade?
These walls are natural linen, because of the art. My house is all beige, but it certainly does not look beige. It is a background for the art. In the bedroom, we went with double shades to have both blackout and solar options.
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Sheila Elias contemporary artist. Sheila Elias. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://sheilaelias.com/