Ela Shah was born in Bombay, India. She began painting at a very early age, and living in India she learned Indian miniature painting techniques as well as various Western styles. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Diploma in Fine Arts from India, she traveled around the world and subsequently moved to the United States and received her M.A. in sculpture at Montclair State University. Although an American citizen, she has been able to hold on to her Indian heritage and incorporate elements of it into her artwork along with Western influences.
Ela Shah has had numerous one-person shows in India and America. Her work has been exhibited in countless group shows in America and abroad in various prestigious galleries and museums like Museum of Modern Arts in New Delhi, India, Queens Museum of Arts, New York, William Benton Museum in Connecticut, Hunterdon Museum, Noyes Museum and Newark Museum in New Jersey and other museums around the country. She has also held positions as a chairperson for the National Association of Women Artists in NY and has curated shows for them and other art institutions. She has shown outdoor works in the Montclair Museum, Grounds for Sculptures, Clifton Art Center in NJ and in Chester Wood Museum, Massachusetts.
Her work is in the collection of the NJ State Museum, Montclair Museum, Jersey City Museum, Newark Library, Hunterdon Museum, Air India, Zimmerli Museum, NJ, Indian Embassy and other public places and private collections. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including two awards from the National Association of Women Artists in New York, which are the Amelia Peabody Memorial Award and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation Award, the Dodge Foundation Residency Award and the New Jersey Innovative Printmaking Fellowship at Rutgers University. She received a 1999 fellowship for sculpture and a 2006 fellowship for painting from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.Her work was the winner for Smithsonian H1 B visa competition.
She has worked as a chairperson (foreign shows) for the National Association of Women artists. She has been reviewed by William Zimmer and Holland Cotter in the New York Times as well as a feature article by Pooja Makhijani. Mr. Dan Bischoff from the Star-Ledger of New Jersey wrote :"cultural exploration is a lot of thousands of hyphenated artists, and one of the stars of this is an Indian American Upper Montclair assemblage artist Ela Shah". She was interviewed by Indian television and also by Dr. Bosachi in "Images and Imagines" show on NJ network television.
Although she now works primarily in sculptures, painting remains an integral part of her work as well. Her art uses some comical images, which reflect a sense of satire while simultaneously addressing deeper issues of religious, political and cultural issues created by multiculturalism in America.
A 2021 award-winning documentary “ela: Breaking Boundaries” has been featured in the New Jersey film festivals, Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival,Chicago South Asian film festival, Ontario International Film festival, Toronto International Film and many other international film festivals. Her coffee table book which shares the same title as the film is her life story accompanied by nearly 100 photographs of her work.