High above and just beyond

“View to the Hudson” (Oil on Canvas, 14” x 18”).  COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
“View to the Hudson” (Oil on Canvas, 14” x 18”). Courtesy of the artist

BY SCOTT STIFFLER   |  Long after the High Line had proven itself as a draw, Chelsea-based artist Ellen Bradshaw (no fan of crowds) had yet to climb its stairs. Then her friend Ethel Schlesinger urged a visit — asserting, recalls Bradshaw, “that the High Line would inspire a powerful, unique way of seeing our beloved city. So I went, once in June then during an off-hour on a snowy day in December. It was beautiful. I looked at the High Line, then the city, and the contrast absolutely thrilled me. I did not expect to be taken away by it, and I was.”

“Under the Standard Hotel” (Oil on Canvas, 20” x 24”).   COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
“Under the Standard Hotel” (Oil on Canvas, 20” x 24”). Courtesy of the artist

Bradshaw spent the next year and a half creating “From the High Line.” The exhibition is dedicated to Schlesinger, who did not survive to see the 20 oil paintings that exist because of her insistence on seeing, with eyes and heart, the elevated park’s merits. “She is always with me in spirit,” says Bradshaw of her departed friend.

Ellen Bradshaw merges natural beauty with urban sprawl

Perhaps that’s why so many of these works convey an intense emotional connection to that which is physically distant. “View to the Hudson” may be set high above 10th Ave. (where snow, stone and metal peacefully coexist), but the scenic vista is urban action incarnate (cabs, cars and trucks whiz by, and our gaze is forced far across the river to a foggy skyline dense with its own possibilities). Influenced by the realism of Ashcan painters and the atmosphere cultivated by Impressionists, the crowds that kept Bradshaw from the High Line for so long are nowhere to be found in this collection — making the park an even more ideal respite from the sometimes gritty chaos just beyond, down below.

“A Summer’s Day Retreat” (Oil on Canvas, 15” x 30”).  COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
“A Summer’s Day Retreat” (Oil on Canvas, 15” x 30”). Courtesy of the artist

“Ellen Bradshaw: From the High Line” is on view through Nov. 22 at Pleiades Gallery (530 W. 25th St., 4th Floor; btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). Hours: Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. and by appointment. All works on exhibit are available for purchase. For info, call 646-230-0056 or visit pleiadesgallery.com. Also visit ellenbradshaw.com.