WHEN Joe Seme’s wife, Sharon (Sam) Waite, passed
one tomato Joe Seme’s body of work is a love letter to the past
By Emory Rakestraw
away in 2019, her bountiful garden produced only
a single tomato due to heavy rains. Always an artist
but deep down a storyteller, Seme spent hours
dutifully painting each line, curve and shadow the
fruit exuded while propped against a backdrop in his studio.
One Tomato became a catharsis of remembrance.
“I like to think that Sam is wandering around a garden somewhere
now with Claude Monet, whose garden we visited in Giverny,” he wrote
on his website. “She’s probably smiling about the tomato painting and
would have wanted me to share it, so here it is.”
Holding an English degree with a focus on creative writing, Seme’s
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life equates to a leatherbound
story. As the co-owner of the
long ago Hub Pub Club near
Sugar Mountain, North Carolina,
he had a chance encounter
with former New York Times’
art critic John Canaday.
Another chance encounter in
Aspen, Colorado, found him
talking creative legacies with
singer John Denver.
Seme, who served in the
Marine Corps, started painting
seriously after the ski slopes
and encouraging art critics.
He began with barns or land-scapes
inspired by winter
drives up snow-covered peaks,
and the way the sun beamed
through icicles midday.
“I paint what I know and
what I really love; it has to be
an emotional connection for
me,” he says. “I used to drive
the mountain roads after a
snowstorm and see the icicles
dripping off the barn and it
would make the hair on my
arm stand up.”
His sportsman nature result-ed
in international hunting trips,
painting commissioned portraits
brand Abercrombie and Fitch.
Realistic acrylics of stately dogs
and all their quirks took shape
alongside his love of creating
and collecting decoys.
Today, one of his root head
decoys floats in the marsh
behind his Wilmington home.
The rich garden he’s preserved
Artist and author Joe Seme works from his Wilmington home overlooking the marsh at Hewletts Creek.