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Siren of the Sea: Painter Elizabeth Mumford

Citing Ralph and Martha Cahoon as significant influences in her work, Mumford paints what is simply described as folk art, but like the Cahoons, her work is not only an archetype of New England’s history, but also an allegory of our present and hopeful future. Mermaids, sailboats, New England architecture—they are all regular elements of Mumford’s work, but her thoughtful inclusion of unexpected items or historic landmarks are the details that keep the work from being too saccharine.

The scores of scenes Mumford has created, most originals in oil and then reproduced as giclee prints, are too numerous to count, but several exist in the collective conscience of lovers of the Cape and Islands. “Cape Cod Dogs” depicts a lascivious Yellow Labrador sitting at the bar of a tavern eyeing the available female clientele. “Cape Cod Girls” and “Cape Cod Boys” present a bucolic childhood that involves inventive use of Mother Nature’s bounty as though the children’s whole world was full of magic, forts and fantasy. The paintings are embraced (literally) by Old World adages that deliver the final punch with Mumford’s distinctive humor. 

Her humor is as essential an element to her work as the oil, brushes and canvasses that fill the corners of her space. Her bright and inquisitive spirit is the driving force of what can only be described as a very special life. Her love of history, art and culture is evident in her work, but for anyone who is lucky enough to know her, that is certainly not a revelation. Because just a simple conversation with Mumford, with her blues eyes sparkling, will involve a story that provides a glimpse into true Americana, and like most good stories, a bit of humor provides the memorable flavor.

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