Elise Seeds

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"Fragment of Continuity"
Oil on canvas
50 x 40 inches

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Elise Seeds was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on January 30, 1902. Seeds began her studies in the early 1920s under Arthur B. Carles, Daniel Garber and Hugh Breckenridge at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She then studied dance with noted dancer, Isadora Duncan in Berlin, Germany. Deciding that was not for her, Seeds instead performed in the Ziegfield Follies where she met W.C. Fields. Using her mother's maiden name for the stage, "Elise Cavanna" continued to appear in Fields' films until 1938. Six feet tall and eccentric, her purple hair was not the only thing that set her apart.

At the same time she was appearing in movies, Cavanna became active in the local art community and the Public Works of Art Project. A Modernist painter, she was one of the earliest non-objective abstract artists in Los Angeles. In September 1933, using the name “Elise,” she exhibited six abstract lithographs at Stendhal Gallery in Los Angeles. She was praised for the cool precision of her lines and spots of color.

In 1934, she married art critic, music impresario and graphic designer Merle Armitage. He encouraged her artistic talents and she eventually gave up acting to devote herself exclusively to art. With Armitage, she became immersed in artistic and literary circles in Los Angeles and New York. She befriended such luminaries as the poet E. E. Cummings and author Ernest Hemingway.

In 1937, Elise won a Treasury Section of Fine Arts commission to paint a mural for the Oceanside, California, Post Office. She painted a 6 ft. x 16 ft. mural, entitled Air Mail, showing an airplane in flight. In 1939, she showed an abstract work entitled Out of Space at the New York World's Fair. In 1954, Elise participated in a landmark exhibition at the Los Angeles Art Association Gallery along with Helen Lundebeg, Lorser Feitelson and Stephen Longstreet. Called the “Functionists West,” the display showed both non-objective works as well as Post-Surrealist paintings. In the 1950s, she married James Barrett Welton. In 1961, she and Welton co-authored a book entitled "Gourmet Cookery For A Low Fat Diet," with two hundred recipes for making fatless meals.

Elise Cavanna Seeds Armitage Welton died of cancer at the age of sixty-one, on May 12, 1963, in Hollywood, California. She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Glendale, California.

Exhibited: Fifty Prints of the Year, 1933-35; Ebell Club, Los Angeles, 1935 (1st prize); California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, 1935; Antheil Gallery, Los Angeles, 1938 (solo); New York World's Fair, 1939; Forsythe Gallery, Los Angeles, 1950 (solo); Los Angeles Art Association Gallery, 1954.

Murals: Exposition Park, Los Angeles; Oceanside Post Office, California.

Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2 vols. Print.
Who's Who in American Art, 1938-53.