Artwork of Former York College Professor on Display in Art Gallery

Elena Borstein held an artist talk on Feb.7. Photo credit: Adisa Sobers


By Richard Heaton

On Feb. 7, Elena Borstein returned to York College after 18 years to display her love of architecture in the college’s art gallery. The exhibit, titled Gift of Art, features 19 paintings that were made by Borstein between 1985 and 2015.

Borstein and York President Marcia V. Keizs both attended the opening of the exhibit, along with dozens of viewers, students and staff alike.

In total nearly two dozen paintings are on display highlighting different styles of architecture. Many of these paintings were inspired by Borstein’s experiences traveling through different cities and countries. During the late 20th century she traveled to Havana, Cuba where she fell in love with the colorful buildings and as a result her artwork inspired by the architecture “emphasized the lush colors on the aging facades…”

According to the exhibit guide given out at the opening Borstein’s work is a reflection of the “various places she has visited or reconstructed in her imagination.”

Each section of the exhibit is broken up into the different places she visited. So on one side, you have her work inspired by the places she visited in the Mediterranean and on the other side you’ll see the artwork she made from her inspiration of the architecture in the Bronx and Jamaica, Queens.

When recalling reactions to her artwork based in Queens and the Bronx, Borstein remembered someone telling her that people would never want to see something from these boroughs, but she decided to keep on because she saw the beauty in the peeling facades of the buildings.

During a talk at the opening Borstein explained that the artwork in the exhibit was created using her personally developed airbrush techniques. The colors were achieved by using both pastels and acrylics to re-create the vibrant architecture as she wanted to see it portrayed.

She said she returned to York out of affection for the college after having taught here for more than three decades. She was one of York’s founding faculty members and taught for 32 years. She retired in 2001, just four years before President Keizs took over.

At the exhibit, President Keizs praised Borstein for her continued support of the arts program at CUNY and spoke of how thrilled she was to have an exhibit with Borstein’s original artwork.

“We are so proud of the work that the gallery does and we are thrilled to have [Borstein] come back and work with us,” said Keizs.

If you want to know more about the paintings, you can view more photos on our website,, or head down to the art gallery and see the paintings for yourself.

The exhibit, which will be up until Mar. 8 is located in the art gallery on the first floor of the Academic Core building, right next to the Liberty Avenue entrance.

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