Current Issue / DU Alumni

Gary Kaemmer’s colorful obsession

Gary Kaemmer's "Leonardo Revisited"

After working in the Denver commercial art industry for more than 30 years, Gary Kaemmer, BFA ’57, packed his bags and moved to Hope, Idaho, where he’s spent the past decade drawing, painting and sculpting.

Kaemmer had felt there was a lack of respect for artists in the advertising field. Now that he can create art on his own terms, he hopes to leave something behind—work that might be framed and hung on a wall.

He began to draw at an early age and never doubted where he would end up. “As far as [art] goes, I’m doomed. It’s an obsession,” he says. “You have to be obsessed or you won’t be any good at it.”

Kaemmer especially enjoys creating representational figurative sculpture, small to life-size, some of which he casts in bronze. He also works with elements like oils, papier-mâché and watercolors, although he does not prefer any particular medium. “Who wants to eat meat and potatoes everyday?” he says.

In his most notable work, Kaemmer takes paintings from world-renowned artists, ranging from Leonardo DaVinci to Picasso, and repaints them exactly in the original artist’s style—but with a twist. He puts a portrait of the artist in the painting. “I like to do artists who didn’t do many self-portraits, or any at all, and incorporate their image into the work.” Sometimes, Kaemmer uses just one element of a piece, like the background, and creates something entirely new. Once, he took three different objects from three separate Van Gogh paintings and incorporated them into one. “I never know exactly what will happen, but some are entirely original,” he says.

Kaemmer’s work has been exhibited in New York, Chicago, Denver and Vail, and he has been represented in national art competitions such as Art for the Parks and the Society of Illustrators.




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