Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ellen Bradshaw: Making an Artistic Journey Upstate By Way of Chelsea

For most adults, taking a mental step backwards to revisit childhood memories can often seem like a luxury, especially in these busy and trying times. Thank God for art! Art affords, both its creator and its admirers the opportunity to reflect upon a lifetime of experiences. In my opinion, everyone should allow themselves the time to delve into the past to spend some precious moments there. Nothing is more rejuvenating than to honor the places that we have known--the ones that we remember with great fondness. Products of our own specific environments, the “where” impacts us the most and make us who we are. It is the thing that makes each of us special, and, in many cases, helps us find common ground with one another.

Who hasn’t been touched by the facades and the innocent perfection of a “Main Street” somewhere? My mind’s eye frequently flashes to memories of lonely, winding, foliage-lined roads that lead out of town. Artist Ellen Bradshaw’s latest show, Heading Home, Keuka Lake, at Pleiades Gallery in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, takes the spectator on a journey through just such places.

Known mostly for her distinctive cityscapes inspired by the Ashcan School, Bradshaw, a Rochester native, departs from the urban jungle and heads Upstate to the openness of New York’s Finger Lakes region and all the beauty of Keuka Lake and the villages of Hammondsport, Penn Yan and Branchport. Artistically, this was a logical progression for Bradshaw, since these are the places where she has spent so much time getting to know the land, its sweeping vineyards, and the moodiness of the lake itself.

In Heading Home, Keuka Lake, Bradshaw has compiled a wonderful mix of works that easily transition from the varying blended greens and azures of brilliant summer scenes, to stark, solitary brown, cobalt blue and gray depictions of fall landscapes, to peaceful winter holiday scenes that are shaded with melancholy.

Bradshaw’s paintings could easily persuade one to quietly slip out from underneath the pretense of the city and head for the uncomplicated, single-layered lifestyle of small town America, where “overscheduled” refers to long, spontaneous walks in the woods (leaving the timepiece on the bureau) or lazy afternoons with a pole and awaiting fish, not to mention fall country drives in the shadow of trees bedecked with orange, red and brown leaves.

While the works in this exhibition evoke intense emotions for the spectator, even if they’ve never had the opportunity to know the subjects that inspired them firsthand, Heading Home, Keuka Lake is clearly a communion with the past for Bradshaw. Her artist statement says that the development of this series was tantamount to reclaiming part of her soul. Keuka, known as the “Lady of Lakes” because of its exquisite beauty, has always beckoned Bradshaw lakeside. What is most special about this show at the Pleiades is that the artist openly and lovingly shares her artistic journey, and gallery goers will be equally drawn to the landscapes that she knows so intimately.

Heading Home, Keuka Lake runs through November 22 at the Pleiades Gallery located at 530 West 25th Street, 4th Floor in Manhattan. Visit for gallery hours and more information.

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