Friday, December 18, 2009

Mera Rubell in my studio

Last Sunday, around noon or so, when the doorbell rang, as chance would have it, I was carrying Little Junes around.

I went and opened the door; Mera's Rubell's "36 studios in 36 hours" posse was at my door-step, the 36th studio of the grueling tour.

She was here at last. All through the last couple of days my email inbox had been buzzing with artists reporting what was happening during their studio visit. "I think I'm in! said one email, "But even if I'm not, I'm feeling pretty good about my artwork!" it finished.

"Mera Rubell..a total life force!!!! My studio still vibrating with her energy, dialogue, quick take on everything.....her bowler ha t-- 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' bowler hat. I haven't felt such positive power in DC for so many years!!!!" shouted out another email from a very talented DC area artist.

And now she was in my house.

It all happened fast, but soon we were talking about the artwork on the wall, with one of the visitors commenting that she had some Sandra Ramos' works in her collection. The photographer documenting the visit was meanwhile admiring the photographs of Cirenaica Moreira and asking about her.

The eyes and attention turned to Ramos as people looked around my first floor. Someone of the locals recognized an early Tim Tate sculpture, which I had acquired at his very first solo show.

Meanwhile the wife offered fresh coffee, which was accepted by the tired, bleary eyed group. Little Junes, of course, was a big hit with everyone. Someone poked him on the side and he let out a big grin. "Everyone in the Campello household is working this visit except me," I thought to myself.

"So, who's the artist in this house," asked Ms. Rubell, looking at me and Alida.

"I am," I responded, but quickly added that Alida also had a formidable arts background, after all the Professor studied art at Colgate, Corcoran and MICA and was in the graduate program in printmaking and photography at the Art Institute of Chicago before she decided to focus on special education.

Frida Kahlo by CampelloBefore I knew it, we were looking at the only piece of my artwork that hangs in my house: the 1981 collage of Frida Kahlo that I did while a student at the University of Washington. I almost panicked when I realized that we were discussing a 28-year-old piece of art done as a class assignment under Jacob Lawrence.

"Maybe we should get down to the studio and see the work that I have for you," I said.

We went down to the basement and Ms. Rubell looked to a wall full of certificates, photos and framed paperwork.

"Who's got all these degrees?" she asked, a little amazed. I laughed and explained that I was a former Naval officer and all that stuff is what we call in the Navy the "I love me wall."

There, framed for all to see was my entire Naval career: ships, submarines, medals, certificates, photographs, Arctic Circle papers, Equator crossing certificates, Suez Canal certificates, etc.

She looked with interest at a photo of a massive Soviet Typhoon submarine, which I had taken from a British helicopter that I'd been riding at the time somewhere over the Kola Gulf. I identified the huge sub to her. "I was born in Russia," she stated. None of us knew that. I told her that Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the US Nuclear Navy had also been born in Russia.

She thanked me for my service, told everyone that she had her Naturalized US citizen certificate framed and on her wall, and then we all entered the well-lit mess that I call my studio.

"Show me what you got," she said, settling down on a stool.

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