By combining art historical elements with contemporary figures, Wes Hempel says he attempts to create narrative paintings that function in a revisionist manner, commenting on contemporary culture. He has found that the ambiguity and sense of displacement arising from these juxtapositions can appeal to viewers in ways that he cannot have foreseen, and he finds mhimself increasingly drawn to elements where the relationships are less clear. The non-verbal aspect of painting appeals to him, the idea of entering into an image without having words, at least initially, to explain what's going on.
Wes Hempel states:
"One of my ongoing projects (which I've written about at length elsewhere) is a re-visioning of what art history might have looked like had homosexuality not been vilified. A walk through any major museum will reveal paintings that depict or legitimate only certain kinds of experience. Despite the good intentions of critical theorists questioning the validity of the canon, paintings of the old masters on the walls of museums like the Met, the Louvre, Rijksmuseum still have a certain cache. They're revered not just for their technique but because they enshrine our collective past experience. Of course, it's a selected past that gets validated. Conspicuously absent to me as a gay man is my own story. By presenting contemporary males as objects of desire in familiar looking art historical settings, I'm able to imagine (and allow viewers to imagine) a past that includes rather than excludes gay experience-and ride the coattails, as it were, of art history's imprimatur."