You Can’t Take the Country Out of the Girl

The latest exhibit by New York City painter Ellen Bradshaw, best known for her depictions of urban neighborhoods and cityscapes, featured scenes of the Finger Lakes. “Heading Home, Keuka Lake” was at the Pleiades Gallery in New York’s Chelsea art market district from late October to November 22.

A product of Rochester and a graduate of Our Lady of Mercy High School, Bradshaw studied at Syracuse University and Pratt Institute, then settled in New York with her husband, Joe. She recently spoke to us about the things that influence her art, particularly her Upstate upbringing.

“I certainly am not of the city, though I love it here,” she said. “Growing up in the Finger Lakes affected my sense of beauty, and I still find it the most beautiful place on Earth. So many people – especially here in the city – have never even heard of the Finger Lakes, so I find myself explaining a lot. It should be interesting to see what kind of impact my show has, especially after doing the cityscapes for so long.”

She continued: “For the last eight years or so, I’ve been doing cityscapes, and honestly, I was feeling a bit burned out. I go to Keuka Lake at least twice a year. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. I felt it was time to do this series because I have taken so many photographs of the area, and I wanted to get back to landscapes. I’ve really had a blast with it. I guess you could say it has recharged me.”

Bradshaw works from photographs and has a camera with her at all times. She changes the photographed scenes and applies her own sense of color, but the places she paints are still easily recognizable. “You always know where it is that I’m painting,” she said. “It’s definitely realism – you can tell it’s an actual place – but I also try to capture the feeling of the place in my own way.”

Her paintings, whether country or city scenes, exploit the play of light and evoke a sense of solitude. “I think it’s funny that after living in the city for as long as I have, I still tend to show more of the solitude and go for the quieter neighborhoods,” said Bradshaw. “I also tend to not like crowds, which is evident in my work. When I do include people, it’s often a lone figure.”

Bradshaw’s art reflects the influence of the Impressionist painters, especially their sense of atmosphere and use of color. As a college student, she developed a deep affinity for the Ashcan School painters John Sloan and George Wesley Bellows, and the American Scene painter Edward Hopper. Like the Ashcan painters, Bradshaw was trained as an illustrator.

Her style has very gradually but continuously evolved. She takes things more slowly and is more introspective than she was in the past. “I think I used to be a little more expressionistic, and in school I concentrated more on people,” she said. “In the past, I think I painted more rapidly. I still use expression; you can still see the brushwork and it’s not tight realism.”

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by Anya Harris

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