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.

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.

Elizabeth Downer Riker


Art Students League, NY
Grand Central Academy of Art, NY
New York Academy of Design, NY
New York University, NY, MFA Film
Georgetown University, DC, BA History

Solo Exhibitions:

2012Life in the Valleys of Oaxaca
Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge, MA
2010Women in the Fields
Municipio de San Bartolomé, Oaxaca, Mexico

Group Exhibitions:

2017Ceres Gallery, My Favorite Things, New York City
Ceres Gallery, Women Under Siege, New York City
2016Ceres Gallery, Summer Celebration, New York City
2011Galería La Biznaga, Oaxaca, Mexico
Municipio de San Bartolomé, Oaxaca, Mexico
2010United AIAR Artists, Gstaad, Switzerland
Galería La Biznaga, Oaxaca, Mexico
Galería Ocho Mujeres, Oaxaca, Mexico

Selected Film Projects (Director/Editor):

Film Festivals
2001Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah
Slamdance Film Festival, Park City, Utah
2000Taos Talking Picture Film Festival, Taos, New Mexico
American Indian Film Festival, San Francisco, California
Television Broadcasting
2000PBS Short Film Collection, aired in multiple states


2016Manhattan Neighborhood Network, NY, Film and Television Instructor
2011San Bartolomé Arts Program, Oaxaca, Painting Instructor