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Cottonwood artist Liz Alpert creates portraits of herself, siblings, for 90-year-old mother

Art for the awakened eye

Liz Alpert

Liz Alpert


Originally Published: August 18, 2020 11:28 a.m.

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On Aug. 11, Liz Alpert of Cottonwood sent portraits of her and her five siblings to their mother, Sylvia Green of Boston. Green will celebrate her 90th birthday on Aug. 30. Clockwise from top left Betsy Rick, Ed Green, Kathy Alpert, Cindy Grande, Liz Alpert and Diane Dedoshka. VVN/Bill Helm

For her birthday later this month, Sylvia Green will receive portraits of each of her six children.

One of those daughters, Liz Alpert, painted the portraits.

Although the greater Verde Valley, if not the world can soon read this story thanks to the internet, Alpert said the portraits are a surprise gift for the 90-year-old Green who lives in Boston.

“My older sister Kathy had asked me one day to paint her portrait,” Alpert said. “Upon completing the portrait, together we had this great idea of painting all six kids of our blended family to honor my mother. It’s been exciting and fun. It has reunited us in a sense.”

The portraits are of Liz, her two sisters, her one stepbrother and her two stepsisters.

Background

As a young child, Alpert still remembers visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with her grandmother. She was so moved by the art, she said, that she cried. Fact is, great art still moves her deeply.

“It happened most recently in Paris at the Musee d’Orsay,” she said. “I cried in front of works of Gauguin, Cezanne and Van Gogh primarily. Also saw Toulouse Lautrec and Degas there, that day. It was powerful.”

Alpert’s list of artistic influences is a veritable who’s who of classic art, such as Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Matisse, Modigliani, Monet, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. Also, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe and Grandma Moses.

Although she paints a lot of portraits, Alpert also works with live models, animals and landscapes.

“Living within such beauty, that’s impossible to ignore,” she said. “I’ve always thought a view of water or mountains was necessary for me to create. Now, even though I live in a very beautiful place surrounded by mountains with creeks nearby, my studio and home are without an amazing view. I found out I don’t need that for inspiration. Of course it helps to have a special space to go to create. I am so grateful I have that space.”

That space is her home-studio.

“I often start my day gradually as I prepare to paint,” Alpert said. “One of the main requirements for me to paint is feeling well rested and energized. Next, I get momentum from finding the subject that inspires me. Then, off to my studio to paint. I usually complete every painting I start in a few hours.”

Adaptations

Alpert said she prefers to work from her own photographs of the people or places she paints. Since her family is scattered across the country, and with the COVID-19 pandemic discouraging travel, she had to adapt for this project.

“My sister (Kathy Alpert) just mentioned that I am picky about the photographs I paint from,” Alpert said. “Not entirely true. I had to work from photographs provided by each sibling. There are always going to be challenges in any project, but I feel this went very smoothly. I really benefited from everyone’s cooperation in this project.”

Kathy Alpert called the portrait project a creative way to reunite the family and to celebrate their mother’s upcoming status as a nonagenarian.

For years, our parents’ home has featured a wall of family photos, with outdated photos removed and new ones added to replace them,” said Kathy Alpert, who lives in Watertown, Massachusetts. “Since our dad’s been gone, mom’s enthusiasm for updating the wall of photos has waned. So for her birthday surprise, the family gallery will get a dramatic facelift, with Liz’s beautiful, colorful portraits of each of us.”

On Aug. 11, Alpert shipped the portraits to her mother. However, a seventh portrait remains at Alpert’s Cottonwood home – a portrait she recently painted of her mother.

“This might be the first time our entire blended family of siblings is in a photograph or portrait together,” said Diane Dedoshka of Sacramento, California. “I know it will be very meaningful to my step-mom and so happy that Liz created this for her.”

Inspiration 

An artist her entire life, Alpert began painting full-time in 2018. Since then, she has painted more than 100 canvases. Her paintings are in private collections in Boston, Palm Springs, Seattle, Sedona, and in the greater Phoenix area.

Alpert has also had a solo exhibition at the Raymond Rodriguez Salon in Sedona, as well as an exhibition of emerging artists at Art Shopping Paris, next to the Louvre Museum.

Alpert said she couldn’t really explain how she works, but that she is able to capture the essence of the person she paints.

“Working from the images provided, I intuitively paint what I see, which turns out to be their soul expression, personality or something else,” she said.

Acrylics are her preferred paint, canvas her preferred surface. For the family portrait project, she use 12” x 12” gallery wrapped canvas.

“Since the presentation needed to be consistent, I chose a size that would work for the goal of wall placement as well as portrait expression,” she said. Each painting took approximately three hours to complete.

“I think my family is thrilled to be a part of this project,” Alpert said. “We all love my mother and know how much she appreciates art and family. It’s a great way for us all to share together and contribute to this unique birthday gift.”