Elaine Badgley Arnoux was born in Omaha, Nebraska and moved to Whittier, California when she was 11. She was awarded a scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute in 1944. She moved to San Luis Obispo, working as a watercolorist depicting landscapes and buildings of the area. She helped found the San Luis Obispo Art Association in 1952, and was its first president in 1952. In 1957 she became friends with Channing Peake, an artist and gentleman-rancher in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Between 1957 to 1960 she experience an heroic period of creation influenced by Channing Peake. In 1965 she moved with her family to San Francisco. In 1973, she moved to Biot, in southern France. In 1985, back in San Francisco, she took on an ambitious project to one hundred portraits : The People of San Francisco. In 1989, after seeing the bold black and white stripes of Navaho chieftain blankets, she began her New Frontiers series in which stripes played a central compositional role. The New Frontier series marks a great personal and artistic growth for Badgley Arnoux.
In 1989 her art school, founded eight years earlier, was moved from Geary Boulevard to 689 Bryant Street. The next year the City put a South of Market Multi-Service Center in the adjoining building and within another year all all but one trustee left the board of her school. Making the best of a tough situation she hired the residents to pose for her and do odd jobs, and in the process she came to understand and empathize with their plight. In 1992 she used the metaphor of the homeless shopping cart as the covered wagon traveling across the Nebraska plains of her childhood, and took her public art piece from her studio to the steps of the Civic Center to greet the newly inaugurated mayor, Frank Jordan.
Next came her Once Upon A Time series, a continuum of a desire for societal balance. In July-September 2004, she returned to her San Luis Obispo roots with a retrospective exhibition in the then San Luis Obispo Art Center. The place she helped found in 1957. In July-September 2012 the now San Luis Obispo Museum of Art presented a retrospective of her work in the exhibition A Time and a Place: The Artistic Encounter Between Channing Peake & Elaine Badgley Arnoux 1956-1962.
Her friend and curator Susan Hillhouse wrote “…Badgley Arnoux continues to ride the pulse of things and events, observing and translating them into her own laguage. Elaine Badgley Arnoux’s deep rituals of reflection and action result in work that is poignant and passionate, demonstrating her full involvement in life and all its offerings and contradictions.”
Donated to the Permanent Collection by Karen A. Diefenderfer in 2013.