The Kansas City Star – Artist captures a menu of ideas

Dinner Conversation With Nancy by Roger Shimomura

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

Nancy must have been some woman to have inspired Roger Shimomura to create and name the painting for her. By all accounts she was.

Shimomura painted Dinner Conversation With Nancy in 1983 as an untitled work, but he 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 one 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 and the colors and because many of the images are recognizable in pop culture, Earle 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,” Earle says. “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 diaries kept by his late immigrant grandmother. He was born in Seattle and spent two early years away from his home in Minidoka, Idaho, one of 10 internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Suzanne P. Cole is a freelance writer in Leawood. If there’s a landmark, sign or work of art in Kansas City you’d like to know more about, send an email to kcstarmag@ Put “Eye Level” in the subject line.