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‘Portrait of a Woman’ Artwork Honors Military Women

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2016 — “Honor knows no gender,” artist Steve Alpert said at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, June 13.

Alpert spoke following the unveiling of a triptych titled “Portrait of a Woman.” His work depicts a female soldier seen from three directions -- both profiles and from the back. She is saluting the U.S. flag.

A triptych is a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.

The subject of Alpert’s work is a warrior wearing the combat patch of the storied 101st Airborne Division on her sleeve. “She looks fierce,” said one of the women veterans who attended the unveiling.

That was the idea, Alpert said during an interview.

“Courage is what an ordinary person does in an extraordinary situation,” he said. “’Portrait of a Woman’ honors the girls next door who went and signed up, volunteered for the armed services. They took the oath to protect the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the pursuit of the American Dream. I define that as courage, and I see them as heroes.”

The Idea

Alpert said he got the idea for the painting from a play he produced based on another painting he did. That painting -- “Legacy” -- features eight soldiers in their battle dress uniforms of various eras marching on from of a large American flag. Alpert had worked as a producer and decided to stage a play titled “The Steadfast” in New York, with actors portraying the service members from the American Revolution to the present.

One actress portrayed a Marine Corps second lieutenant with such conviction that it burned the idea for “Portrait of a Woman” into Alpert’s mind.

“One minute I didn’t have this idea, and the next minute it was completely in my head,” he said.

It took eight months to get it right, he said. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, displayed the painting in the Joining Forces room of the vice president’s home in Washington. Alpert’s work also hangs in the Pentagon’s Mark Center, USO headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and many other galleries and places. He also paints landscapes and calls New York home.

Series of Artwork

He is currently working on a series of paintings about Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is located at the cemetery’s entrance.

Alpert pointed outside the memorial at the cemetery. “When I look at the long rows of headstones here, I don’t know if it is a man. I don’t know if it is a woman,” he said. “And it doesn’t really matter, because honor knows no gender.”

“Portrait of a Woman” will be exhibited at the WIMSA memorial through December.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
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