Elizabeth Downer Riker: Beneath the Same Sky

Ceres Gallery presents the exhibition Elizabeth Downer Riker: Beneath the Same Sky, a series of paintings juxtaposing the experience of farming in two of the most profoundly different parts of the Americas – the New York metropolis and a Mesoamerican village in Mexico. Opening reception is Thursday, September 7, 2017, 6-8pm, at 547 West 27th St., Suite 201, New York, NY. Show continues on view in Gallery I, through September 30, 2017.

In New York City, a movement of urban farmers has created a network of urban farms, built on the very buildings that once defined the city’s industrial age. Ceres Gallery will host a panel discussion, Rooftop Farms: Greening the Concrete Jungle, with pioneers of NYC’s rooftop farm movement. This event will take place on September 13, 2017, from 7-8:30pm.

Elizabeth Downer Riker: Beneath the Same Sky

Brooklyn Grange Navy Yard, oil on canvas, 24 x 30


In contrast, the villagers of San Bartolomé in Oaxaca, Mexico, have been growing corn, beans and squash on the same communal lands since the dawn of agriculture. Despite their differences, today’s urban farmer and indigenous villager face similar challenges coaxing food from the soil.

This exhibit of paintings aims to create a visual bridge between these distant worlds.

Elizabeth Downer Riker: Beneath the Same Sky

Limpiando la milpa, oil on canvas, 19 x 23


About the Artist Elizabeth Downer Riker

My paintings are a celebration of people and places that capture my imagination because of their unique composition, play of light, and color juxtapositions. I seek out images that transcend everyday experience, striving to elevate the ordinary to something poetic.

I’m drawn to the beauty of nature and specifically the subject of people working the land. I find the human form — rooted in nature, working or resting — endlessly fascinating. In my paintings I hope to express the timelessness of people’s connection to the earth, something that for many has been lost. And I want to convey the necessity of finding harmony in this relationship once more.

For many years I lived in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I painted farmers in a small Zapotec village. It was a transformative experience for me as an artist. I was struck by the fact that most of the farming was being done by women, and I learned that this was because many of the men were working in the United States. This gave rise to the empowering of women, who found themselves for the first time in positions of authority — in the fields, at home, and in local government.

Elizabeth Downer Riker: Beneath the Same Sky

Sembrando maiz, oil on canvas, 19 x 23

Over time I became close to many of these women and was invited to accompany them to the fields. It was a special privilege, and it allowed me to paint en plein air where I could capture the light and subtlety of color. I also took photographs of the women to use as a reference. At times I returned to the fields alone, painting the landscapes at different times of day. In my studio I worked from the images I collected in the field, creating full-size paintings.

Recently I moved back to New York City. I craved the images of people working the land and began a series of paintings of the city’s rooftop farms. Though a world apart from southern Mexico, these farms in the sky have a beauty and power of their own. They bring people together in a special connection with nature, creating new possibilities for the greening of the city, and providing a ray of hope for the future. They also have inspired me to embark on a new project rooted in my deepest passion.

To view more of Elizabeth Downer Riker’s work, visit her website at: http://www.elizabethdowner.com

Ceres Gallery is a feminist, not-for-profit, alternative gallery in New York City, dedicated to the promotion of contemporary women in the arts. Ceres provides an exhibition space that enhances public awareness and helps remediate women’s limited access to commercial galleries. It also serves as a supportive base for a diversity of artistic and political views.

Over the years Ceres has encouraged not only artists but also writers, musicians, dancers, poets and storytellers to perform in the gallery and take risks with their work that might not be possible in a commercial setting. The members of Ceres Gallery believe the arts provide an important social service – that art has the power to educate, enhance and enrich the quality and depth of people’s lives. To learn more visit the website at: http://www.ceresgallery.org

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