Works from the Studio of James Hempel
I saw what I expected to see Anaba Tea Room: A mélange of two dozen works from a dozen of James Hempel’s students. A Hempel portrait of a chap in a white shirt and elaborate vest (Bonhomme), smiles from a wall in the lower level entry.
My giant cup of strong black tea and a plate of artfully arranged egg-salad sandwiches arrives, along with Jamie Bilgo, the assistant manager of the Garden Room upstairs. She helped install the exhibition, and in 2008 her work was featured in the Tea Room. I tell her my favorite works are the five nearby. In particular, I’m drawn to The Kiltie, by Carolyn Larkin, because it brings back memories of root beer floats at an Oconomowoc drive-in by the same name. Bus Stop, competently rendered in oil, depicts a rusting bus in a weedy landscape. Artist Roxanne Haney is a former principal of Shorewood Intermediate School.
Lawrence University graduate Hempel is also a former secondary school
educator. These days, teaches art in a Walker’s Point building. In Sunday Morning, a 30 x40-inch oil, Hempel details the back-side curves of a nude figure lounging in a bed with a satiny spread. The bedspread ripples and undulates across the canvas and steals the scene from the nude.
With the black tea fueling my attitude, I peruse the remaining works, primarily landscapes (so many, so many): marshes, creeks and lakes and lilies floating Monet-like in a watery scape. Dead-ahead are groupings of cows, and whoa, penguins! Among the familiar animals, the penguins seem surreal.
Before route’s end (anchored with the standby red barns), I halt to study Shy Black Sheep, by Carol Brown. It’s not perfect (neither are sheep), but the muted oil palette, loosely rendered, looks straight out of the 30’s and 40’s, as if the artist was standing head-to-head with the herd.
More facile works are grouped near Hempel’s Sunday Morning. I think Brown’s sheep deserve to move to the head of the class.
Anaba Tea Room is at 2107 E. Capitol Drive, in Shorewood. The Hempel Studio show is on view through Dec. 31.