Friday, December 18, 2009

Dawson on Rubell

The Washington Post's Galleries art critic, Jessica Dawson (whose writing role, as explained to me by the Post, has expanded a little, and will allow her to cover more art-related events such as this one, instead of just having Dawson do gallery reviews) followed Mera Rubell around to a few of her 36 studio visits and has the Dawsonesque take on the event here.

You could call it a Hanukkah miracle. Or the arrival of intelligent life from another planet. Last Saturday at 5 a.m., while the rest of us slept, megacollector Mera Rubell walked among us, hunting local art.
Read Dawson's report on the Rubell visit here.

As usual, Dawson adds her own bitter Debbie Downer flavor to a spectacularly positive event and tips her hand, when she introduces her log of the visits by writing: "Mera's troll through Washington's art warrens was akin to Santa visiting the Island of Misfit Toys."

What a putz... or maybe I'm the putz for just seeing just all the positive things that Mera and her interest has generated and will generate, and ignoring some of the things that Dawson highlights. And for the record, I know which Misfit Toy I would be...

As commenter "fisher1" noted in the Post's website in a comment about Dawson's article:
Jessica Dawson tactfully didn't mention one major reason artists in Washington feel neglected and isolated and that is the lack of any consistent critical voice. Any thriving art scene needs good critics as well as collectors and venues willing to take chances. We might have the latter two but certainly not the critical voice. Jessica Dawson might review one art show in ten if we're lucky; the Post's major art critic, Blake Gopnik is usually found wandering through New York's galleries ( admittedly, recently he has noted that art is going on in Washington)and people like Andrew Sullivan and occasional pieces in the City paper try to fill the gap but gap it remains and that's been the situation for many decades.
Unfortunately that wasn't "tact" on Dawson's part, after all, she's one of the critical voices in question.

You can see all the comments, or add your own, here.

Sweet 16

See the artwork chosen by Mera Rubell, who picked 16 artists, here.

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.