Feast your eyes

CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories

AUTHOR: HILL

Feast your eyes

Vanelli’s to unveil recent rock art acquisitions

By Jane Hill

Daily Journal

From intimate pencil sketches by John Lennon to an admiring portrait of James Dean by a young Joan Baez, the rock art collection at Vanelli’s is growing in new and unusual ways.

Bill Kapenekas, co-owner of Vanelli’s Restaurant, began a rock art collection in 1991 when he stumbled across a gallery in Philadelphia featuring artwork by the late Beatles songwriter John Lennon.

Taken with a Lennon work done in tribute to Elvis Presley and Elton John, Kapenekas decided that the work would be the perfect piece to christen the family’s new restaurant on North Gloster Street in Tupelo.

Since 1991 Kapenekas has acquired more pieces by Lennon and has broadened his scope to include works by Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, John Anderson from the rock group Yes and folk music legend Baez.

The restaurant’s collection, which also features works from local artists and some unusual painting and sculptures from around the world, will be on display for the general public at the “Artsy Smartsy Unpacking Party” Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Included in the Lennon collection are “It’s Only Rock And Roll,” “Taste,” and “Imagine All The People.” Recently released for sale and new to the Vanelli’s collection are two original pen and ink drawings created by Lennon while he lived in Japan.

These recent buys were the result of ties Kapenekas made with Colm Rowan, manager of Image Makers Art Gallery in Philadelphia. The gallery specializes in the art of rock and roll stars.

A lithograph by former Monkee Mickey Dolenz depicts the depletion of the ozone layer. Another lithograph by John Anderson of the rock group Yes, is a more pastoral piece showing a stand of wildflowers preparing to take flight.

Baez’s portrait of James Dean created in 1955 is of particular interest, Kapenekas said. The work was given to the AIDS foundation created by actress Elizabeth Taylor to raise money to search for a cure to the deadly disease, he said.

“It is a great piece. There is a lot of depth to it, especially when you consider that she did this when she was a little girl,” Kapenekas said.

The collection of tributes to Presley also has grown with a trial proof of a work by Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones dedicated to Presley’s memory.

While Kapenekas admits that none of the works are groundbreaking artistic innovations, he said a different value lies in the insights they provide into other aspects of the musical artists’ lives and talents.

“Lennon for instance. I’m not going to say he was a Van Gogh or someone who changed the face of modern art forever, but I think he was much more than just a songwriter. I think these works show that he was a sensitive, thoughtful and many-faceted person, a Renaissance man who could do many things,” Kapenekas said.

Local artists such as Bruce Bigelow and Jean Francis also are featured as part of the restaurant’s permanent collection. Francis created the work featuring an angel that “blesses” all the patrons who enter the restaurant, he said.

Other pieces in the restaurant’s permanent collection include newspaper etchings from the 1860s through the 1870s, original oil paintings from Greece and a daring – for the time – advertisement for ladies petticoats published in France in 1905.

“When people take the time to look at the collection, they are often surprised by the quality and the originality of what we have gathered here,” Kapenekas said. “We invite everyone to come by and take a look.”