Political activism, community involvement, and cultural awareness have been a part of Elly Simmon's life since childhood. Born in New York City in 1955, she grew up in San Francisco, California. Her earliest memories include Elly Simmonsparticipating in protest demonstrations with her parents. She was influenced by her father's progressive politics and commitment to social change, and by her mother's creativity and compassion. Her sister Mara's life has also been deeply significant to Elly's approach to painting.
Her work is also shaped by the joyous symbols of the art of the Americas, her own Jewish culture, the commentary of political artists such as Ben Shahn, and by the rich visual diversity of San Francisco Bay Area cultures. Elly paints her love and exuberance towards life. She paints not only what brings her happiness, but also what moves her to sorrow or to anger. She paints to protest injustice, but also to celebrate the beauty of existence.