“Dinner Conversation with Nancy” by Roger Shimomura

Where: Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.  

~ photo courtesy of the Spencer Museum

Nancy must have been some kind of woman to have inspired Roger Shimomura to have painted and named this painting for her. By all accounts, she was.

Shimomura painted “Dinner Conversation With Nancy” in 1983 as an untitled work, but later re-named it after the death of his good friend and Lawrence arts patron, Nancy Anne Zimmerman.  He donated it in her memory to the Spencer Museum of Art in 1988.

The painting portrays a jumble of images that seem to tumble together and float on top of each other.  And while there are figures peeking through in several places, there does not seem to be any ground plane or standard “figure/ground” relationship that would make the elements cohere into a narrative, or even into a readable space, says Susan Earle, Spencer curator.

“Normal concepts of space are defied,” she says.

Visitors are drawn to the painting because of the density of the images, the colors and the fact that many of the images are recognizable in pop culture, she says.

“It is a great example of the ways in which the artist works with existing styles and idioms, such as pop art from the 1960s,” says Earle.  “He incorporates elements of pop art, but also goes beyond it.”

Shimomura is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of KU’s Visual Arts Department.  His paintings and prints address sociopolitical issues of ethnicity and have often been inspired by the diaries kept by his late immigrant grandmother. He was born in Seattle, Washington and spent two early years away from his home in Minidoka, Idaho, one of 10 concentration camps for Japanese Americans during WWII.

Learn more about the Spencer Museum of Art.

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