“Re-Enchanting The City: A Greener NYC” Exhibition

Ceres Gallery

poster for “Re-Enchanting The City: A Greener NYC” Exhibition

This event has ended.

Ceres Gallery will present RE-ENCHANTING THE CITY a collection of paintings by Elizabeth Downer Riker. The exhibition will feature her oil paintings that provide the unique chance to look at and contemplate one of the great hidden stories of contemporary New York City - the slow rise and continued growth of rooftop farms and community gardens that are prophetic in proclaiming that another city is possible.

The exhibit opens at the end of a year of the pandemic. During this time there has been a huge explosion of interest in how to create a more habitable environment in urban areas like New York City. “Being on the rooftops, painting young New Yorkers with their hands in the soil and seeing the monochromatic, urban landscape surrounding them inspires me to think about what if these small patches of green could be spread across the whole city. Why wouldn’t that benefit us all?” said Ms. Riker. “If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that it’s time to green our urban spaces — not only will it improve the climate within cities, it will reduces flooding, pollution, noise and increase people’s wellbeing. New York has tremendous opportunities to embrace and expand upon this trend. With ‘Re-enchanting the City,’ I hope to spark a broader conversation about this possibility.”

Ms. Riker, who spent years painting farmers using traditional techniques in southern Mexico was astounded when she first learned about these rooftop farmers. “It’s simply dazzling, as an artist, to walk through the industrial, graying neighborhoods of Long Island City, or the Brooklyn Navy Yard and climb up from the treeless street to the rooftop, and see a vibrant field of green hidden from view. At first I was attracted to the contrast of colors but then I was struck by the innovation of the farmers, many of them women, who have learned how to seal the roofs, cover them with specialized soil and grow healthy local food. To see that they are creating a whole ecosystem on the rooftops and in the process are building community and educational programs for children was remarkable. In painting this subject I wanted to celebrate their efforts and make this visible to all of us who crisscross New York City at the street level and never see it.”

The exhibit will showcase her futuristic vision of what a “green” Long Island City would look like with the addition of eco buildings, windmills, solar roofs and rooftop farms like the ones she has painted to date: Brooklyn Grange: Navy Yard, Long Island City, Sunset Park; Gotham Greens Greenpoint; Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and others. Community gardens like the Garden of Happiness and Eagle Slope Community Garden, both in the Bronx, will also be featured, as well as upstate farms and Greenbelt woods in Staten Island.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a virtual opening where visitors can view the works and meet Ms. Riker, as well as a video of the show.

About Elizabeth Downer Riker

The artist, born in Boston and raised in Paris, started out as a filmmaker, earning her MFA at NYU’s graduate film program. After discovering her love for painting, she studied at the Art Students League in Manhattan. For many years she lived in the Central Valleys region of Oaxaca, where indigenous communities have succeeded in retaining their cultural traditions and customs. Over time, Riker developed a close relationship with the villagers of San Bartolomé Quialana, and was invited to accompany them with her easel as they worked the land. A selection of her Oaxaca paintings will be included in this show.

Inspired by City Rooftop Farmers

Riker returned from Oaxaca to New York in 2011, still passionate about the theme of people working the land, and found a new subject here — on the city’s rooftops. The rooftop farmers are inspiring to her, not only as a subject for her work, but also because they offer a hopeful vision for a greener future and are creating new opportunities for people to connect with nature in an increasingly urbanized world. Since 2015 she has painted over 20 paintings of New York City’s rooftop farms and met numerous residents committed to cultivating a sustainable ecosystem here.



from April 27, 2021 to May 22, 2021

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