Heartbreak Herbs: A conversation with artist Lela Shields


We recently partnered with Lela Shields, founder of Trouve, on the artwork for the walls of The Indie Alley. We love the wonderful works that Lela has curated for our space from Trouve artists, and how they fit perfectly with the sensibility of our space. We also love working with another local woman who has long helped creatives find a home for their work in Fairfax.

We recently talked to Lela about her work, in particular her exhibition of nine new, original paintings hanging at 123 Bolinas, our lovely local wine bar here in Fairfax. This current body of work is an exploration of medicinal plants and their magical properties. Here we asked Lela to tell us more about this show:

“I participated in my first herbalism course a few months ago and felt inspired to learn more while simultaneously contributing to giving these plants a voice. The stories surrounding these plants and their healing capabilities are endless.  I barely scratched the surface of what there is to learn and I’m excited to make this investigation a life-long venture. 

I wasn’t as interested in replicating the plants as we see them as I was in portraying the way they felt. This included their appearance, but more importantly their healing capacities, as well as how they have been used in ritual and magic throughout the ages.

Each piece starts with a random spill or pour of ink that the painting then emerges from. I approached each painting as an incantation, spell, or prayer where I intuitively married particular plants with certain animals and insects to create a menagerie of symbolism.

I chose these particular plants in this body of work because I had a preexisting relationship with them; I have personally used them to help me heal in the past. I also chose these plants because most of them can be found on our doorstep here in Northern California."

Bio: Lela was born and raised in London and attended several fine art institutions before graduating from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. She has had solo exhibitions in Denver, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sydney, Australia. She has shown internationally in England, France, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

In 2006, Lela was included in a group exhibition at The Louvre Museum in Paris, France. In 2009, Lela’s work was short-listed for the Jerwood Drawing Prize – the most competitive drawing contest in the UK.

Lela relocated to the Bay Area in 2011 from London and currently lives and paints in her studio in Fairfax. She was represented by Hang Art Gallery in San Francisco before opening Trouvé, a small gallery featuring her own work as well as the work of many other artists and designers in the Bay Area. Trouvé is located in downtown Fairfax on Bolinas Road and is the place to view more of Lela’s work.


*If you see a piece you like in The Indie Alley, please contact Lela directly at lela@lelashields.com