Thy Holy Ladies: Because Female Artists Are Important

The following is another post in L.A. DY Clever, our guide to events and news going on in Los Angeles that are of interest to women. Because a clever lady should know what’s going on in her own backyard.

Thy Holy Ladies Flyer

Flyer courtesy of Natasha Lillipore.

ART, like virtually every activity known to humankind, is a man’s game. For every Frida Kahlo or Yayoi Kusama that makes her way past the critics and judgments to the halls of artistic renown, there are hundreds of Manets and Monets and Picassos, waiting with haughty sneers and a “Welcome to the Boys’ Club” banner. Female artists, while as brilliant, and oftentimes even more so, than their male counterparts, simply don’t carry the same cultural capital that male artists do. And if you think that’s a bold statement to make out of the blue, well, then, consider the fact that in 2012’s top 100 art auction sales ranked by price, not a single female artist made the list. Not one. It’s no wonder that art critics like Brian Sewell can exclaim with alarming finality that “there’s never been a great woman artist” and imply that there will never be one, either.

But there are great women artists out there, artists whose talents deserve to be nurtured and showcased. Shelby Sells and Jude Liana, both artists in their own rights, wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, and they’ve teamed together to present Thy Holy Ladies. An exhibit for talented young women who are emerging artists across the globe, Thy Holy Ladies takes place here in Los Angeles on October 25th, and will feature twenty-five female artists and their art, ranging from drawings to photographs, visuals to sculptures, and even performance art pieces that will invite audience interaction. The first event that Sells and Liana have planned of its kind, Thy Holy Ladies is a family affair of sorts, since all of the artists featured are close friends of the duo or friends of friends, lending a sense that this is an actual community of artists that grow together and support one another, not a random collection of names grouped together to draw a crowd.

And it’s that kind of support that is at the heart of Thy Holy Ladies. When we asked Shelby Sells why she thinks it’s important to have an event like Thy Holy Ladies that showcases exclusively-female artists, she replied: “I am a strong believer in female empowerment and as such I want to make sure that women are able to get their work out there for everyone to see. I see a lot of new female artists standing up in the art scene and making a name for themselves… by introducing these creative outlets I think it will encourage more girls to get out there and show the world what they’ve got.”


Shelby Sells, image credit: Natasha Lillipore.

Which is something that Shelby isn’t afraid to do herself – show the world what she’s got through her art – through her interview series that she features on her website called Pillow Talk. Through a mixture of interviews and photos (that she takes herself), Shelby gets one-on-one with artists, models, singers, and directors – people who are making names for themselves in their respective industries – the likes of Max Landis, director of Chronicle (2013), and Gilbert Trejo, actor and screenplay writer. Yet, she never focuses her interviews on their work or their careers; rather, she has conversations with them about love, sex and relationships and transcribes them, word for word, making sure that every *giggle* or *awkward silence* is written down, allowing readers to feel as if they are present with Shelby and her subject as well. Paired with the photos that Shelby takes of her subjects, she paints an alarmingly vulnerable and candid picture of these people who are oftentimes surrounded by a shroud of celebrity or success, or at least on their way to getting one.

But while readers/viewers are able to get an explicit (and often titillating) look into the lives of her subjects, what they also get is a view into what is important to Shelby as an artist: connection and communication with other people. “Going deeper than surface chit-chat not only creates empathy,” she explains, “but awareness and truth. It feels good to know that you’re not alone and that other people can relate to what you’re going through… At the end of the day, we all have to face the hardships of life – we are all going through the same f*cking sh*t… It’s not easy, but I believe it gets easier by sharing your story – ultimately you find support, knowledge and understanding.”

It makes sense, then, that Shelby would be so passionate about helping to create a space where female artists can share their experiences through their art with other people; connection is key for Shelby, and “communication is the first step to connecting with someone,” she wisely points out. And in a moment where people are increasingly seen talking over or about, not talking to, others, events like Thy Holy Ladies are exactly what we need to facilitate that genuine communication. So get your buns over there! (Her words, not ours.)

P.S. If you’re wondering why Shelby and Jude decided to name the event Thy Holy Ladies, well, in Shelby’s own words, “it signifies us girls coming together as a whole and expressing ourselves through a variety of mediums… and it’s also for sh*ts and giggles, because most of us are pervs and sickos anyway ;-).” Now if that doesn’t pique your interest and make you want to check this event out, we don’t know what will.

Thy Holy Ladies opening night is this Saturday, October 25th from 6:00-10:30PM at Multi-Cultural Artists United, located at 220 Glendale Blvd in Los Angeles. The showcase will be available for viewing until October 29th. The event is free and open to patrons of all ages. For more information about the event, please send an e-mail to And to keep up with Shelby and see which interesting new person she interviews next, check out Pillow Talk and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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