Friday, February 27, 2009

Wes Hempel

In the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation blurb about his work Wes Hempel says, "It's so pervasive a heterosexual story that you get in Art history...I'm trying to imagine what a gay art historical past would look like." * I was intrigued by both the work, and the statement, so I looked Hempel up on line and found his artist’s Website. There I discovered not only the larger oil paintings of young men in various antique and bucolic settings, but a series of smaller paintings in oil and graphite on book pages titled the Van Dyck Series. One, "page 29" shows a handsome and muscular barely (pun intended) twenty something man, torso exposed to the waste, seated cross-legged reading a booklet. The top of his head is wrapped in a white strip as though bandaged, and his incomplete foot is sketched in pencil over the gesso as though the artist had not finished the work. The figure is beautifully and subtly, I might say “lovingly” modeled in order to pick out the contours of beefy young well-muscled form. A white halo of gesso surrounds the model, thus preventing the oil paint from damaging the paper beneath it, but also separating the figure from the page, almost as though he / it is suspended above the printed paper of the book. Page 29 itself shows two drawings / prints by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, and of course the text about Van Dyck, most of which is obscured by the painted figure. Thus, a revisionist gay Art history is begun.

Look for a future entry about Wes’ collaboration with partner Jack Balas.

• Hempel, Wes, in the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation Website,, Viewed 11:56 PM., February 15, 2009.


Will said...

I discovered Wes Hempel via his painting Fatherhood just this last week at the Denver Art Museum. As a gay man who raised two adopted Korean orphan girls to magnificent womanhood, I was immediately taken by Wes's work. I found your blog because of your reference to him, and will be exploring it in future visits.

KittKatt said...

Thanks! As often happens, you and I are thinking along the same lines. I also admire Wes Hempel’s art. I just wrote about its gay spiritual themes at the Jesus in Love Blog: Artist Wes Hempel paints gay spiritual struggles.