Two female artists from SoCal display contrasting views on life and nature

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Amid the premature spring weather outside, Elisa Contemporary Art brings a heated Southern California perspective to Riverdale with its new exhibition, “Through Her Eyes.”

The exhibit, which is on display until May 25, features California artists Kimber Berry’s and Stephanie Cate’s different views on life.

“Both of them really bring to life very, very different abstract ways of our world, our relationship with nature and our universe,” Lisa Cooper, the owner of the gallery, said. “I felt like it was so important in this particular time where we are to also have a female perspective of our world. So that was also a key element for bringing this all together.” 

Berry’s pieces are bursts of colors created from a combination of paint and digitally altered images to create “multi-dimensional moving paintings,” according to Cooper.

“Kimber is really concerned with how we’re destroying nature, and potentially the only things that will be left with our relationship with nature are plastic flowers and things that we create and put here, as opposed to what nature has created,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Cate brings forth a perspective out of this world. Or at least from beyond this planet. Her works revolve around Europa––one of the moons orbiting Jupiter––and possibilities of life in other places.

“It sort of changes your perspective as you look at these very black and white pieces to then think this is all about that texture of the planet, that ability for it to have life, that fascination with something sort of new and exploring something that’s about 36 million miles away,” Cooper said.

Tucked away in a plain building on Mosholu Avenue, Elisa Contemporary Art has had a home in Riverdale since 2008. Cooper, a former Riverdale resident, initially established the gallery in 2007, and although she spent over 20 years in advertising and marketing, working for major companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Cooper’s true passion lies in making art accessible to others.

“Art really has a healing and transforming quality in all of our lives,” she said. “And it’s so important, so there’s always been––since the beginning––that ability to give back and support the healing quality of art therapy as well.” 

Cooper’s work goes beyond her Riverdale location. She’s an art dealer who works with artists and puts on shows in Manhattan, Miami and other cities. In the last year, she’s opened an art salon in Connecticut, and a portion of the money Elisa Contemporary Arts makes goes to philanthropic initiatives such as Free Arts NYC and the Art Therapy Project. But her decision to open a gallery in Riverdale came from wanting to tap into a niche that was lacking in the community.

“We have great, wonderful, smart people here who are passionate about the arts,” she said, “but there’s a little bit of that feeling in Riverdale that if it’s here, it’s not as good as it’s going to be in Manhattan or someplace else, which actually is an incorrect perspective.” 

And even though Cooper’s goal is to serve the arts to everyone, her own passion is the element that holds it together. She believes it’s part of her aesthetic to pick work she loves before exhibiting it to others.

“I’m such a firm believer that [art] needs to live somewhere between your heart and your emotion, and you take your head out of it,” she said. “But it has to make you feel something.” 

Cooper doesn’t know what the future of art will hold, but she’s intrigued by what artists will bring to her gallery and how her visitors will perceive it. 

“I hope their impressions are that they see something they’ve never seen before or experienced,” she said, “that it takes them into a different space that they have that feeling like, ‘this is something I would love to come home to every day and get lost and get out of this crazy world and just get lost into a piece of art’ into someplace that’s a little more healing, transformative and meditative.”

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