Simple Tastes, 10.5 x 32 inches, acrylic on board. Joe Seme’s painting of wine labels and corkscrews hangs on his dining room wall, painted by
the artist to look like brick and mortar.
DURING a two-week trip to Europe in 2013, Seme and Sam
purposely got lost in the French countryside. There were
sun-drenched antique stores painted in accents of classic
blue, later displayed in Bayeux Antiquities. Two flowerpots
with bright red blooms first made the perfect photograph
for Sam to capture, and later a Christmas gift to her in Seme’s Trente-Huit.
While his recent work seeks to recreate those memories in vivid detail,
Madelaine Francois’ Favorite Chair stands out.
“Sam and I were wandering around the French countryside and drove
through this courtyard and there were these two huge barns full of
antiques and a 17th-century manor, a typical French three-story stone
house,” he says. “The proprietor came out, I spoke a little French, she
spoke a little English. At the end of the conversation, Sam bought a button
hook and I a corkscrew. She invited us inside her home; I had always want-ed
to go into a French manor house. Sam was sitting there taking pictures
and in this hallway was her favorite chair.”
Usually referencing a photograph, Seme recreates imagined worlds of
meticulous landscapes with artistic license, sometimes moving a build-ing
or two closer to the water like seen in Southport Geraniums. For Bay
Rider, his friend provided the sprawling green lawn and water view of the
Chesapeake Bay, but Seme’s love for antiques inspired a new narrative,
featuring the Uncle Sam weathervane in the American Museum of Folk Art.
“I photographed his view from his den window then I pulled up the
photos of the weathervane and painted it as if it were in his yard,” Seme
Hyperrealism features work in vivid, sometimes excruciating detail.
He notes Sam was a gifted photographer, and much like how the eye
sees light and shadows, Seme’s realistic scope is required while not
“I’ve always liked things that have a story,” he says. “Like my painting
Iron Sam. I look at that and wonder how many hands have squeezed it.”
Iron Sam, painted in “trompe l’oeil” (deceive the eye) style, lent its own
anecdote after gallery viewers tried to scrape off a painted piece of dust.
Seme laughs, “In the early days I had to put glass on everything
because people couldn’t keep their fingers off.”
Seme’s awards include the Duck’s Unlimited Artist of the Year, and
his work has been showcased at Winston-Salem’s Southeastern Center
for Contemporary Art’s Realist Invitational. But his favorite work is Simple
Tastes, a painting featuring wine labels and antique corkscrews, which he
calls his labor of love.
36 november 2021