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Siren of the Sea: Painter Elizabeth Mumford

Today she lives in her grandmother’s home, which was her family’s summer haven from the time she was a child. It is a modest 1870s farmhouse cottage, nestled into the enigmatic enclave of Hyannis Port, and she is surrounded by art of all varieties, mostly created by her. In the gabled end of her oversized kitchen, a medieval gold-gilded painting of a beautiful maiden looks down over the many friends and family that enjoy Mumford’s warm company and spirit. “I created that on my dorm room floor at Smith College,” she says matter-of-factly. Peeling away the details, it turns out she not only painted the piece while studying medieval painting with a teacher, but she also picked up some gilding techniques from her as well, and since she was also learning wood carving from renown sculptor Leonard Baskin, she reveals that she used her grandfather’s wood block carving tools to create the ornate frame that embraces the angelic renaissance creature. 

A large three-season porch is Mumford’s favorite space in which to create. Two walls of windows give way to vistas of some of the most famous real estate in the country and finally to the iconic breakwater and Nantucket Sound beyond. Sailboats, power boats, ferries to  Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and paddleboarders bob and weave through the waves and swells, suddenly causing the realization for the viewer that Mumford’s folk scenes that she is known for are not a fantasy at all. “I paint what I know,” she explains. “I painted my son’s life. He would play on the lawn or the beach with his friends, there was usually a dog or two running around, and the scene always seemed happy to me, to see the kids enjoying the Cape.” 

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