A colorful connection

Robens Napolitan and Tom Kramer showing new paintings at Monarch Mountain Coffee

By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Reader Staff

For Sandpoint artists Robens Napolitan and Tom Kramer, “it was an art connection” right from the moment they met.

Napolitan was handing out art supplies at a community center where Kramer was scheduled to teach a cartooning class the same day. It was fall and the end of daylight saving time, but he’d forgotten, arriving at the community center an hour early. 

Robens Napolitan and Tom Kramer. Photo by Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey.

That was in 1974. Just shy of 50 years later, the couple continues to foster that art connection, and currently has a collaborative art show on display at Monarch Mountain Coffee (119 N. First Ave.) until April 29.

Napolitan said Sherrie Wilson, owner of the coffee shop, asked the duo to curate a show to accompany the shifting of the seasons into spring. Both Napolitan and Kramer are known for painting with raucous color — an observation made by attendees at an opening reception for the collection earlier this month.

“There was a relief that people felt, it seemed to be,” Napolitan said. “They kept saying ‘color,’ but you could tell it was their spirits that the color lifts.”

While both Napolitan and Kramer work with the full spectrum of the rainbow, each artist also has a distinct style. Working with texture and more geometric units, Napolitan is inspired by nature and whimsy, while Kramer’s background in cartooning often means that his work features semi-figurative interpretations of people and what he calls “the silence within.” 

One of his works, “Wild Child,” was of particular interest to art viewers during the Monarch Mountain Coffee opening reception. 

“Tom often paints at night after I’ve gone to bed,” Napolitan said. “In the morning, when I go to open his curtains to the daylight, I see what has appeared on his easel. When I saw ‘Wild Child’ I said, ‘Don’t touch it! It’s done!’” 

The two serve as one another’s closest critic, and oftentimes, collaborator. One joint piece of artwork now on display is titled “Internal Logic,” and happened as a result of Napolitan giving up on a canvas, offering it to Kramer and asking him to “break it open.” Kramer said the title is derived from a concept he and Napolitan subscribe to in their creative process.

“It has to have some sort of thing that holds it together — some sort of meaning, even if we’re the only ones who know what that meaning is,” he said.

The pair has shown at Monarch Mountain Coffee before — in both the coffee shop’s former and current locations. Napolitan said it is one of the most artist-friendly places to hang and display art. The collection currently on display consists almost entirely of never-before-shown paintings by both her and Kramer, making it a satisfying culmination of a year of hard work.

“This was worth working for — well worth working for, because it shows off the work well,” Napolitan said.

Monarch Mountain Coffee is located at 119 N. First Ave. in downtown Sandpoint. The coffee shop will display Napolitan and Kramer’s artwork until April 29.

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