Los Angeles artist Aliza Marton was raised in an artistic family. But after she got married, she focused on raising her own family and teaching Mommy and Me classes.
It wasn’t until Marton’s fourth child was 18 months old that she decided to go to Pearl Art Supply and buy a sketchbook. Nine years later, Marton, who lives in Pico-Robertson, is creating original and commissioned artwork with Jewish themes and teaching art classes in the community.
Some of her pieces have biblical verses hidden in them. One piece, “Man With His Staff,” depicts an older religious man standing with a staff outside his shtetl and in front of the gates of Auschwitz. Painted in the grass in Hebrew is Psalm 23:4: “Though I walk in the valley overshadowed by death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”
The Journal spoke with Marton about her journey and where she finds her inspiration.
Jewish Journal: When did you start creating art?
Aliza Marton: As early as I can remember, I have been drawing, doodling and sketching. That said, I did not begin truly “creating art” until I was 39. It was then that I picked up my first brush to put oil on canvas. But if you look at my eighth-grade yearbook, where it said what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wrote “artist.”
Both of my parents were really artistic. My dad’s sister used to be the set director for pretty much every Broadway show and he had another sister who was an artist. One more sister would teach art. My mother was a sculptor and my mother’s mother painted.
JJ: Where were you trained?
AM: While I am primarily self-taught, I have to express my deep gratitude [to local teacher] Gila Balsam, who allowed me to paint with oil for the first time in her studio. She is a wonderful artist and had been giving lessons to my daughters. I had wanted to paint since I was a young child but never had the opportunity. As a mother, I always wanted to give my children what I didn’t have. Once I began, Gila gave me the confidence and encouragement to venture out on my own as an artist and as a teacher.
JJ: Which artists inspire you?
AM: Although my painting style is quite different, I am most inspired by the great masters. I find myself mesmerized by Rembrandt’s realism and masterful use of light. I also love the color palette of Renoir.
JJ: Did you grow up Orthodox?
AM: I am the daughter of ba’al teshuvah parents. I was raised in a Modern Orthodox home where there was a deep appreciation for Judaism and for Israel. I would say that I have become more frum as an adult and I am grateful for the wonderful community my family is a part of.
JJ: What’s your artistic process?
AM: I find inspiration everywhere. There is never a shortage of [things] to paint. The number of ideas I have for new pieces is always so much greater than my ability to accomplish, due to a lack of time. Stories from the Torah, natural beauty, people of strong character with striking features and my dreams are regular sources of inspiration. I will typically sketch what I have imagined and then quickly move to the canvas.
JJ: Do you only work in oils?
AM: Almost all of my artwork is oil on canvas. I love working with oil. I love everything about it. The feel, the look, the fact that it doesn’t dry too quickly. Very recently, I have been experimenting with poured acrylics on wood panel.
JJ: Why do you make Jewish art?
AM: This is what speaks to my soul. I can’t say that I specifically think about creating Jewish art. It is simply what comes out of my creative process. Even when I am painting the natural world, there is always an underlying spiritual element that drives me.
JJ: What figures or ideas in Judaism inspire you the most?
AM: Jewish unity, perseverance and inner strength are themes that I often incorporate into my artwork. I find [the prophets] and Tehillim (Book of Psalms) to be endless sources of inspiration for me.
JJ: Where can people find and purchase your artwork?
AM: My original artwork and high-quality giclées are available via my website (alizafineart.com). I can be reached via email and phone to discuss commission works. I am also excited to share that, based on some recent conversations, I have made arrangements to be able to produce large-format artwork for commercial installations.
JJ: What is your dream?
AM: I would love to have a few studios in Israel, maybe in Safed and Jerusalem. It’d be a dream to be in Israel. All my siblings and my parents live there, and I love it. I definitely have a very strong spiritual side. It fits with the land. It fits with Israel.
JJ: Why is Jewish fine art important?
AM: The Jewish commitment to art dates back to the earliest of times. The renowned artists (Betzalel and his students) that contributed to the building of the Mishkan did not just make beautiful things; they did so with a deep commitment to serving HaShem. Creating beautiful artwork infused with spirituality has the power to enhance a person’s connection to HaShem and to the people in their lives.