Local artist promotes conservation with oil and canvas

Elizabeth Rieke-Hefley’s love for wildlife manifests itself on canvas. The Lincoln-based artist shares her passion for conservation with others through her oil paintings, which often depict vibrant scenes of nature and endangered species. Her work will be displayed in the McClelland Art Gallery now through Feb. 12.

After entering a graduate program in entomology at the University of Minnesota, Rieke-Hefley taught herself painting. “I became very passionate about conservation and education,” she said in her artist’s statement. “Painting animals was a way to combine all my passions.”

Rieke-Hefley began depicting animals using oil paints and referencing photographs. “I particularly enjoy working on endangered and threatened wildlife,” she said. “The paintings are not only art, but a way to educate people about the animals.”

Paying special attention to skin and fur textures, she uses her work to highlight animal diversity. “For each piece I research the animal and its habitat to make sure the painting is realistic,” she explained. “The final work is then displayed with information on the animal and the threats it faces.” Rieke-Hefley hopes to use her paintings to inspire others to take a greater interest in wildlife. “Only with education can we teach others to take an interest in conservation,” she stated. “My goal is to help people understand by showing them the world’s beauty and diversity and telling them the danger it’s in of being lost.”

The McClelland Art Gallery is located in the Ortner Center on the campus of Union College, 3800 S. 48th Street. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, the gallery is free and open to the public.