Recovering feature artist returns home next week

Most artists in the South Eastern Delaware Art Studio Tour (SEDAST) are finding themselves flustered and anxious as the Nov. 24-25 dates for this year’s tour creep closer. For Ralph Semsker, however, the pace has taken an inopportune turn, as a failed liver transplant sent him to Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia in the beginning of November.

Special to the Coastal Point • Kelly Willis: Ralph Semsker poses near some of his paintings at Bethany Resort Furnishings.Special to the Coastal Point • Kelly Willis
Ralph Semsker poses near some of his paintings at Bethany Resort Furnishings.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Ralph’s wife of 48 years, Isadora Semsker. “He’s been on the list for a kidney transplant for two and a half years.” Ralph Semsker had previously been treated on dialysis in Georgetown before going under the knife for a liver transplant in October. After an unsuccessful transplant, blood clotting led to a frightening haematoma, which brought him to Hahnemann University Hospital. “He’s been in physical therapy,” said Isadora on Nov. 14, “but we hope to return home by Monday.”

His whimsical artwork has drawn attention from people of all ages, appealing to memories of his time at the eastern shore. In almost a nostalgic, folk style, Ralph Semsker recreates the reminiscence of summertime fun with boardwalk and beachfront scenes, from Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, Fenwick Island and Ocean City.

“A lot of his work is completely original,” stated Isadora. “Everything in those comes from his mind. He’s really creative.”

Ralph Semsker also is commissioned for some paintings, where he will use names of areas or objects in his paintings that appeal to a specific location.

“He’ll put a Thrasher’s sign on a building to signify Ocean City,” explained Isadora. “He picks things that are specific to the area. And he has a towel with a crab on it in almost every painting.”

Semsker, newcomer to SEDAST and the featured artist in the 2007 tour, has made sure his years of dedication to art have not gone unnoticed in the surrounding area. He has participated in art shows spanning from the annual summertime Lewes show at St. Peter’s to Arts Alive in Ocean City, MD at Northside Park. His works have lined Bethany’s Boardwalk art show for 15 years and he has belonged to the Rehoboth Art League for the past five years. Some of his most dedicated work is spent with Bethany Resort Furniture, where collections of his prints have been displayed.

Ralph, originally from Montgomery County, Md., was a graduate of George Washington University, where he majored in history and art. He also spent much time working with the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. In 1956, he was an illustrator in the Army, using his talent to draw up battlefields and deployments. In addition, he painted 100 feet of windows at his father’s Washington, D.C. clothing store, Carlton’s.

After his retirement six years ago, Semsker and his wife decided to move to Dagsboro, a short drive from the Bethany shore, where the couple and four children had spent summer after summer for 25 years.

“It was then,” said Isadora, “that his paining really took off. It became much more than a hobby.”

With hopes of her husband’s health quickly improving, Isadora says she and Ralph look forward to returning to southern Delaware.

“I know he’s going to get right back to what he loves doing,” she said. “This has been a frightening time, but it’s only going to drive him more to continue painting.”