Monday, January 27, 2020

The curious case of the broken Bisque

As most of you know, starting a few years ago, and kindled by a happy accident that I had while creating a piece for a fundraiser for the Smith Center for Healing, I discovered the joy of creating original artwork by recycling broken Bisque, which otherwise be discarded and would fill more landfills somewhere.

Let me digress: I was once told that one of Rome's seven hills is nothing but broken pottery that accumulated over the milennia.

Back to the curious case at hand.  In order to do this, I contacted several of the local DMV area "do it yourself" pottery places - I actually wrote most of them a snail mail letter, asking them to save me their broken Bisque.

Nearly all ignored my letter, except for Color Me Mine in Rockville, which told me that it would take them a few months to accumulate enough broken Bisque that would make it worth for me to take the trip. A couple of weeks later they called me and I came back with two boxes full of broken Bisque.

I used those pieces to create the work which then I exhibited in 2017 at my solo show at Artists and Makers Studio in Rockville and which got this nice review in The Washington Post.  This is what the wall of those pieces looked like:

I was on a roll! Not only creating innovative new artwork which was really catching on well with the public ar art fairs in New York, Houston and Miami, but it was essentially recycling and re-purposing a substrate which otherwise would end up in our landfills.

. Lennox Campello's Bisque wall at Pulse Art Fair Miami Beach 2019
Campello Bisque wall at Pulse Art Fair Miami Beach 2019
A good all around story... right?

When I was offered another solo show last year at the Stone Tower Gallery in Glen Echo, I contacted all the same local places and even spread out a little further out in MD and VA.  This time I didn't get a single response, so I decided to drop by Color Me Mine in Rockville and All Fired Up in Bethesda, and personally ask for them to save for me their broken Bisque.

Bethesda said they'd have to ask their manager, who wasn't there at the time... since I hang around that area a lot, I came by a few days later and did speak with the manager, who agreed to collect the broken Bisque. I then returned in a few weeks, only to be told by the attendant that she had no idea what I was talking about, and that I needed to talk to the manager... again. I did so a few days later, and was once again reassured that they'd save the broken Bisque for me. A couple of weeks later I stopped by and, as you may be already guessing,  I was once again told by the new attendant that she had no idea what I was talking about, and that I needed to talk to the manager. This cycle, because I'm around that area often, continues to repeat months and months later. It has become almost a like a never ending game for me.

I even received an email from their manager which said: "Hello thank you for contacting us here at all fired up. We don't have any extra bisque ceramic shards that are scheduled to be thrown away. If we do come across any I will keep you in mind."

But zero (so far) there has been broken Bisque ever collected from All Fired Up.  As far as I know, all their broken stuff ends up in their dumpster, and I'm not into dumpster diving where there are so many restaurants that share the dumpsters.

Rockville was a different story. When I stopped by, their manager informed me that she needed to get permission from "corporate" before she gave me the broken Bisque.  When I informed her that they had given me broken Bisque before, she informed me that the shop was under new owners. I smiled and told her that I'd be back.

A few weeks later I was in the area and dropped in. "Corporate said no," informed me the store manager. I was surprised, and asked her if she knew the reason. She passed on that "corporate was concerned that if the store gave me broken Bisque and I cut myself with the broken Bisque, that I would sue them."

I was a little stunned, and just looked at her for a while in silence. As she was noticeably becoming uncomfortable, I thanked her and left.

I then researched who "corporate" was, and found them, and wrote then a letter.

I didn't hear back from them... so I wrote them another letter. After being ignored twice, I sighed in exasperation and looked online placed an order from Chesapeake Ceramics in Baltimore. When their carefully box arrived full of beautiful Bisque, I broke all of them and created new work -  you can see it here.

Then it dawned on me that they must have tons of broken Bisque, and that dumpster diving in their warehouse might yield a treasure. And thus, after I came back from Miami in December, I wrote them a letter.

To my delight, a nice lady named Gina called me right back in a few days. This angel from the Baltimore regions told me that they'd be delighted to save broken Bisque for me, and that they'd be glad to be part of re-purposing the broken material for an art project. She followed it all up with an email.

Superb customer service from someone who is really good at her job.

A few weeks later Gina called me - she had saved a couple of boxes for me, and today, when I drove up to their warehouse, I finally met this very nice lady, and gave her a hug.  When I backed up to their loading dock, the nice gent there even helped me to load up, not one, but about half a dozen boxes full of beautiful broken Bisque!

Thank you Chesapeake Ceramics! You untangled what seems like a winning proposition for everyone and which for some reason became the curious case of the broken Bisque.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Opportunity for Artists

Deadline: February 17, 2020. 

The Delaplaine Arts Center, 40 South Carroll St, Frederick, Maryland, introduces Graphic Era, a celebration of the graphic arts by digital design professionals and artists from around the U.S. 

This exhibition will feature a selection of artists who are using illustration to engage larger audiences via social, digital and print media. 

Graphic Era introduces visitors to the digital arts and artists who adapt this artform to a new generation and their interests. 

Exhibition dates: April 4 – 26, 2020. 

Awards: Grand Prize $500; Gold $250; Silver $150; Bronze $100. 

For additional information, visit:

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Shirley Chisholm and me

Shirley Chisholm, who was also the first woman to seek the Democratic nomination as president, will be honored with a statue at Prospect Park.
Read the article about Congresswoman Chisholm here.   She was the Congresswoman who nominated me to the Naval Academy in 1976! When I got an appointment, she called me to congratulate me!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Old Van Gogh certified as new real Van Gogh

For 50 years, a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh was called a fake due to its apparent break from form. Now, experts from the Van Gogh Museum believe the painting might be the only known work by the addled artist completed in the throes of psychosis.
Read the story here. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Worst phishing email ever?

Awright - it's not an art scam email, but this mutant has a long way to go... it's also their line spacing...
Tue 1/21/2020 9:28 PM
  WASHINGTON, D.C. 20535

 We the High Commission received a report of fraudulent acts
  against you and in a meeting held with
  the Government and the world high commissions against fraudulent
  activities by Citizens, Your are among those scammed, as listed by the
  Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU). A re-compensation has been issued
  out in the form of an ATM DEBIT CARD of $2,316,000USD (Two Million,
  Three Hundred and Sixteen thousand United States dollars)  and has
  already been in distribution to you as a Victim.

  Your ATM CARD was among those that was reported undelivered as we wish
  to advise you to follow the instructions of the Committee to make sure
  you receive your ATM CARD immediately for your usage. NFIU further
  told us that the use of the Couriers  was abolished due to
  interception activities noticed in the above mentioned courier
  services in which the Financial Intelligent Unit have made a concrete
  arrangement with the Courier Company for a safe delivery to your
  door-step once the beneficiary meets up the demand of the conveyance.

  We advise that you do the needful to make sure they dispatch your
  recompense on time. You are assured of the safety of your ATM CARD
  availability,also be advised that you should stop further contacts
  with all the fake lawyers and security companies who in collaboration
  have a scam deal with you immediately to check if the delivery date
  suits you.

  You have to stop all contact with any other company emailing you
  online concerning Money, and make sure you forward to them all thier
  email and mobile numbers and you will contact Mr. David Beardsley for
  your ATM DEBIT CARD through his email:
  ( Let us know immediately you
  receive it there.
  Yours truly,
  WASHINGTON, D.C. 20535

Hemphill has moved

Hemphill has moved!

After 15 years on 14th Street, the gallery has relocated to 434 K Street NW. In a few weeks, they open to the public with an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Linling Lu. The Lu show follows her move into an expanded studio space in a historic Baltimore factory and a year of producing large-scale commissions. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

John Anderson on Washingtonian magazine article on DC galleries

I had my say here a few days ago on the recent article in Washingtonian magazine on DC art galleries.  Below is what former DMV art critic, artist, art historian, and curator John Anderson adds to my observations:
I’m going to argue your point about the halcyon days, Lenny, and say it was during the 1970s..There were about 120 galleries in DC (not DMV) at one point, and GREAT coverage in the Post and Star. (I can’t recall if Washington Daily News was still active, or the Virginia Morning Sun; the area had 4 dailies going into the 1960s, though). Hopps was absorbing DC artist works into the NCFA (now SAAM). Slade made the Corcoran healthy (and did so without breaking anyone’s nose). The Phillips was actively exhibiting local artists. The WPA opened and had three floors of crazy going on. The Hirshhorn opened. The NEA supported several area artists. There were the women’s artists conferences. The Bicentennial. Artists fighting for rights on The Hill. Rockne was shooting his lasers everywhere. The Art Now (1974) scandal. Yuri Schwebler’s Sundial. Exciting times! I won’t disagree that the 80s, 90s, 00s were all interesting, exciting, or brimming with potential. But I think the 70s was peak awesome in DC art history, and it was predicated by a scene that was growing in the 1950s and 1960s (something Andrew Hudson recognized in an exhibition he curated for the Edmonton Art Gallery in 1970, and something another curator in Baltimore recognized for a similar exhibition at the BMA: both opening in 1970, I believe).

It’s unclear from Bourland’s historical synopsis if he deemed the 70s as the hay-day, since he folds the 50s-60s Color School (WCS) in with Protetch, Moyens, Henri, etc... However, the omission of the Jefferson Place Gallery (JPG) struck me as interesting. I mean, if he’s going to mention WCS, he may as well credit the gallery that, at one time, supported Noland, Davis, Downing, and Mehring (the latter of which exhibited at the JPG at least through 1971). If he is going to mention Gilliam, again he may as well mention the JPG since Gilliam showed there from 65-74. In fact, every artist Bourland mentioned had some connection to JPG, whether being represented by or, in the case of Louis, eschewing invitation to do so.

The mention of “hard-edged abstraction of the Washington Color School anchored by Louis and Gilliam” also made me laugh. I mean, those are the two guys who are least hard edge (minus Gilliam’s first stripes). Come to think of it, Noland’s targets weren’t all that hard-edged, and Mehring’s best work—his dappled all-overs—also defied hard edges. The three who were most consistently hard edge were Downing, Davis, and most especially Truitt! Can’t get much harder-edged than the side of a rectangular prism.

There are other issues with his historical truncation, which make me wonder if it was just slap-dash editing, or some concession to word count. For instance, why was Bill Christenberry lumped in with the Color School guys? His stuff seems charged by memory, place, nostalgia, and time. In other words: content... which is something that isn’t present in a lot of the WCS stuff (although, Paul Richard will argue that Noland was doing targets because he was driving around L’Enfant’s traffic circles in his cabs way too much… and I really like that read!). When I think of Christenberry I think of photographs that follow in the footsteps of Walker Evans (at times, literally), his haunting Klan stuff, and ink drawings of pear trees. Maybe his assemblages of license plates and tin roofs were informed by WCS, but I think such a connection is a big stretch.

Also, Walter Hopps’ Washington Gallery of Modern Art? Hopps was the fourth director (5th if you count the hot minute Eleanor McPeck held down the fort between Breeskin’s resignation and Nordland’s appointment), and held the post for a smidgen over a year. Yes, he was doing great things. Great big expensive things. It’s partly why the Corcoran bought the property: WGMA couldn’t afford it any longer. Fortunately the Corcoran  had the sense to let Hopps continue doing interesting things there through late 68 and into 69. But, while Hopps may have had the most interesting tenure as director, WGMA was doing interesting things from its founding… back in the days when Alice Denney and Julian Eisenstein took their bar napkin sketch for a museum in 1960 and turned it into a museum showing a Franz Kline memorial retrospective in 1962. And then the Popular Image show, and Pop Festival months later. And, were it not for the Stern Family Foundation, everything that came before, during, and after Hopps wouldn’t have been possible: where’s Leni Stern’s credit?

What I think Bourland’s piece misses isn’t so much how a whimpering boom of three new galleries in the area can possibly excite the scene. Yes. It’s good they’re here. Quite possibly it creates an opportunity for a few area artists to show their stuff. Maybe, if those galleries are lucky, DC collectors will buy from them, too! And, while art is certainly a commodity, it is also one of the humanities. Art galleries are places that can ground us, give us insight into worlds unfamiliar to us, and spark meaningful changes in perception and opinion in the people who visit them. And that can lead to profound actual change in Washington. Were it not for the Jefferson Place Gallery, and the lectures and openings that John Brademus attended, perhaps he wouldn’t have been as successful whipping votes to make the NEA happen. Unfortunately, such touchy-feely things don’t pay the bills. But in a town experiencing such rapid change, having more galleries is a way to reconnect people to a variety of ideas in non-literary ways. Hopefully these three galleries, those that preceded them, and those that come to follow, will inspire.

And, God-willing, they all sell some stuff to go over a bunch of couches so that they can keep the lights on.

152 works by African American artists donated to Howard University

An art collector and widow of a former Howard University professor has donated 152 works by African American artists to Howard University. The collection, valued at $2.5 million, includes some of the earliest surviving works by African Americans in this country.
Read the story by Mikaela Lefrak here. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

The curious case of the new Space Forms uniforms

I don't know which Einstein designed this uniform, but I’m pretty sure that camouflaged uniforms will not work in space... cough... cough...

New Space Force Uniform from Twitter

Washingtonian on art galleries

"Why DC Needs Art Galleries" is the title of this excellent article in DMV area glossy Washingtonian. The article is by Ian Bourland, who is assistant professor of contemporary art history at Georgetown University and an art critic for a range of international publications.
The past year was a good one for DC’s contemporary-art-gallery scene. It saw the opening of three new spaces. Ryan Dattilo, an attorney and collector from New York, launched the pop-up De Novo Gallery in Union Market, while Todd Von Ammon, a well-known dealer who previously worked at New York’s Team Gallery, debuted Von Ammon Co. in Cady’s Alley. And in October, a collective of mid-career Washington artists opened a sprawling studio complex/exhibition space in Northeast DC, named Stable—which fits nicely with both the structure’s equine history and the group’s aim to provide a reliable node for creators.
Bourland does an excellent job of updating the current gallery around the District (not the DMV). He goes back a little too far in history (for my taste) to recount the halcyon days of the DC gallery scene:
Decades ago, before the economic turnaround transformed Washington, it seemed as though the city might be an emerging art capital. The Corcoran School of Art & Design was thriving, and DC boasted the hard-edged abstraction of the Washington Color School, anchored by now-canonical figures Morris Louis and Sam Gilliam.
I note this because... technically the zenith of the DMV gallery art scene (no pun intended with Zenith Gallery, which coincidentally represents my work) was more around the late 90s to mid 2000s, when the number of art galleries of all flavors: independently owned commercial art galleries (such as Conner, Fraser, eklektikos, Marsha Mateyka, Irvine, Davidson, Anton, Robert Brown, Heineman-Myers, Alex, Baumgartner, Alla Rogers, Veerhoff, Neptune, Aaron, Numark, G Fine Art, Hemphill, Addison-Ripley, Littleton, Parish, and others, as well as the highly survivable artists' cooperatives (Touchstone, Studio, Multiple Exposures, etc.), and the non-profits (MOCA, DC Arts Center, etc.), and all the university galleries plus all the embassy and embassy-associated galleries (Mexican Cultural Institute, Goethe, etc.).

Back in those closer to the present and true halcyon days of the DMV art scene, the number of galleries in the DMV art scene exploded, as galleries colonized areas such as Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Bethesda, Alexandria, etc. At one point there were eight galleries in Georgetown's Canal Square alone!

What happened? It's a well-known neighborhood revitalization model: when rents are cheap, galleries and restaurants and other small businesses move in. Then the neighborhood becomes a visit point for the illuminati, and soon the area's attractiveness begins to improve, as do real estate prices.  Within a couple of decades, the franchise stores begin to move in, and a decade later the galleries and small businesses are gone, unable to afford the new rent realities. Bourland is familiar with this model as he writes:
...this is the now-familiar story of gentrification as it has played out all over the country. Artists flock to areas with low rents—say, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood or San Francisco’s Mission District—and spearhead a dramatic transformation. Starbucks and Citibank follow, along with rising costs that push artists and experimental spaces farther to the periphery.
What else happened and what is still happening (and I've been bitching about for decades)? The DMV media completely ignores and treats with immense apathy the DMV art scene. I used to complain in the 90s about the press coverage of the local art scene. Little did I realize back then that we were at that zenith in art coverage, when the WaPo had not only a weekly Galleries column which covered the DMV art galleries, but a separate column dedicated solely to area museums plus a weekly column (then written by Michael O'Sullivan) titled Arts Beat, which covered the DMV's art scene. Add to that the weekly gallery review by the Washington Times authored by Joanna Shaw-Eagle, and the Art in America or Art News coverage by Joe Shannon and others... And the multiple freebie neighborhood newspapers which regulalrly covered their area's art galleries: The Georgetowner, the various Gazette newspapers (owned then by the WaPo), Pitch Magazine, Dimensions magazine, etc.

WETA had Around Town on a weekly basis, and the then emerging local cable stations (MHZ TV for one) had regular visual art show coverage.

Bottom line: we were at that zenith as well.

Then the emergence of the art fair model provided the final kick in the balls to the brick and mortar galleries as they discovered that they could move more art, expose more artists to collectors, and even to museums via the good art fairs in one art fair than in ten years in the DMV.  A few, like Fraser and others, valiantly tried to do both for a few years, but eventually most of them closed their physical doors and went virtual all the way.

A shout out to Washingtonian for this article, and a repeat of a question that by my email count I've now asked (and sometimes received answers from apologetic editors) I've asked Washingtonian for decades: Why doesn't Washingtonian have an art review column in each issue?

And one last point: When you cross the street in many places in the DC "box" on the map, now you're either in MD or VA - that's why we call it the DMV (an acronym that I invented by the way)... when pieces are written about the city's art scene, by default it is about the DMV art scene and includes Bethesda, Alexandria, Rockville, Mt. Rainier, etc. In fact there are more artists' studios in Rockville or Alexandria or Mt. Rainier, than in all of DC!

By the way, I've asked those questions multiple times to all other DMV area monthly glossies... and there are a few.

Update: John Anderson has a great opinion here.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Dr. Heran Sereke-Brhan for Nominated for DCAAH Executive Director

Yesterday, at the regular monthly meeting of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (CAH), members voted to nominate Dr. Heran Sereke-Brhan to be the next executive director for CAH.

"This is a historic moment for the Commission as we select our first executive director as an independent agency within the District of Columbia government," said Kay Kendall, Chair of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. "The Commission appreciates the great work that Heran has done during her time as interim executive director. She understands the agency and the challenges of the position from an on the ground perspective, but more importantly, she sees the opportunities for success. Heran is positive in her forward-thinking and is always focused on working as a team to develop the artistic and cultural community, and serving the residents of the District of Columbia." 

Dr. Sereke-Brhan has served as the agency's Interim Executive Director since October 2019, and has been Senior Grants Officer for CAH since July 2017. Prior to joining CAH, she served as Deputy Director for the Mayor's Office on African Affairs. Over the past two decades, Interim Director Sereke-Brhan has worked at a number of cultural and educational institutions, including the Harn Museum at the University of Florida, Addis Ababa University, and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art. She holds a PhD in History with a minor in African Art History from Michigan State University.

CAH is the designated state arts agency for the District of Columbia, providing grants and other programs aimed at encouraging progress in the arts and humanities in Washington, DC. The executive director serves as the Commission's chief administrative officer, and is responsible for the daily management of the agency's operations and staff. Over 100 applications for the position were received by Polihire, the executive recruitment firm that assisted in the search. 

The nomination of CAH's executive director is subject to the advice and consent of the Council of the District of Columbia. Dr. Sereke-Brhan will serve as acting executive director until her appointment is confirmed by the DC Council. 

American University opening

Communicating Vessels: Ed Bisese, Elyse Harrison, Wayne Paige features recent artwork by three Washington, D.C.-area artists. Opening Reception: 6 to 9 p.m., Jan. 25. Free and open to all - at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.

Harrison and Bisese’s work are acrylic paintings and Paige’s includes oil paintings and pen and ink drawings. While their work shows continuity with Surrealist ideas of the 1930s and 40s, it is also related to the Chicago Imagists of the 1960s and 70s and reflects the prevalence of surrealist imagery in contemporary visual art.

For Harrison, the paintings in this exhibition represent a departure from much of her previous work, both in style and content.  

While there will be three large paintings by Bisese from his ongoing series featuring the “Bunnyman” character, the exhibit will be a first exposition of a series of smaller, more abstract paintings with a bird-like creature personifying various characters. Paige continues working with his “celestial inkwell” in small drawings selected from different series that represent his signature “clothespin” figures in a strange and dangerous world.  

Closes March 15. 

Presented by the Alper Initiative for Washington Art and curated by Claudia Rousseau, Ph.D.  Free Parking: Communicating Vessels, 5:30 to 7 p.m., March 5. 

Curator Claudia Rousseau will join the three D.C.-based, Surrealist-inspired artists in conversation. 

Free and open to all; please RSVP to

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Barbara Januszkiewicz’s newest works

On view through February 2020 at Kimpton Carlyle Hotel - The hotel is located at 1431 New Hampshire Avenue, Washington DC, 20009. From East City Art:
View Barbara Januszkiewicz’s newest stain works on unprimed canvas and paper. Described as DC’s own Washington Color School ambassador, Januszkiewicz has re-invigorated the color field technique of the early WSC artists, not only by channeling the veil paintings of Morris Louis, but in the soak/staining of her canvases much like that of Helen Frankenthaler.
In this exhibit we see Januszkiewicz produce zen-like brush strokes across large formats with thinned acrylics. Instead of the WSC traditional pouring paint, she creates and designs her own unique brushes to control her fans of color to create fields of pure color.
Read the whole review here. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

More Scottish skyscapes

I'm still looking for the friggin' 4th grade photos of Anderson... and now I found this! These are 1989-1992 watercolors that I did in Scotland when I lived there while stationed with the US Navy... I did tons of these as sky studies of the gorgeous Scottish skies...

See more of them here.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The return of the Capitol Hill Alphabet Animal Art Project

The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW), in partnership with Eastern Market Main Street (EMMS), is excited to announce the next phase of the Capitol Hill Alphabet Animal Art Project, a community-based public art project featuring installed sculptures on selected street signs in the Southeast quadrant of DC. In 2014, 10 sculptures were successfully installed through a pilot partnership with the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT). Funded by a recent grant from the DC Community of the Arts and Humanities, the Alphabet Animal Art Project will work with DDOT to install 10 additional sculptures throughout Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B to intentionally broaden the span of the Alphabet Animal “path.” The new animal sculptures will be unveiled on Thursday, April 16, 2020 during Eastern Market Main Street's Third Thursday celebration. 

“The Alphabet Animal Art Project is so special,” says Hannah Jacobson, Project Manager, “and all of the sculptures both already completed and in production tell a story: individually in conversation with their street corners, their artists, and their materials, and together as a collective pathway encouraging new ways of engaging with spaces that may feel familiar. We are thrilled to be able to add another 10 animals to our community.”

The Alphabet Animal Art Project was originally conceived by a father walking with his two children in Capitol Hill. As he walked past lettered street names, he pointed out, “K Street—K is for Kangaroo.” He brought the idea to the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop and so the Alphabet Animals were born. 

As a continuation of the previous 2014 project, the Alphabet Animals will follow in the footsteps of their predecessors. CHAW has engaged with a roster of nearly all the original artists, including Beth Baldwin, Charles Bergen, Undine Brod, Susan J. Champeny, Breon Gilleran and Mary Frank in collaboration, Carolina Mayorga, Davide Prete, Evan Reed, and Maureen Smith.

Eastern Market Main Street preserves the historic corridor, supporting small businesses, and fostering a vibrant, neighborhood serving corridor through public and private space improvements, capacity-building resources, and community events and campaigns. 

Since 1972, the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) has provided arts education to thousands of children and adults in the Washington region, especially from the greater Capitol Hill area. Through classes, performances, and exhibitions in visual and performing arts, CHAW brings together diverse segments of the population to connect through the transformative power of creativity.  CHAW offers a tuition assistance program and flexible payment plans. CHAW is funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. CHAW is a featured charity in the 2014-2015 Catalogue for Philanthropy, mentioned as Best Venue to See on the Cheap in DCist’s 2014 Best Theater Venues in DC, the 2015 & 2016 winner for Best Arts Class in the Washington City Paper Readers’ Poll, 2014 & 2015 Hilly Award winner for Best Arts Organization/Venue, the winner of the 2017 Irene Pollin Community Engagement Award through the NSO and the recipient of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Arts Innovation and Management program.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Squid drawings

While looking for Anderson’s 4th grade photo, which I can’t seem to locate, I found these 40+ year-old sketches of daily liberty life in Naples, Italy... cough... cough... 

The inseparable twins: Johnson and Johnson, USS Saratoga port visit, Taranto, Italy, c. 1976
The inseparable twins: Johnson and Johnson, USS Saratoga port visit, Taranto, Italy, c. 1976

MM3 Castro ready for liberty, USS Saratoga (CV-60), c. 1976 by Lenny Campello
MM3 Castro ready for liberty, USS Saratoga (CV-60)

“The Gunny conducting Squid counseling outside the Texas bar in Naples” - a 1975 drawing by Florencio Lennox Campello
“The Gunny conducting Squid counseling outside the Texas bar in Naples”

Saturday, January 11, 2020

New Exhibition Space in the DMV: The Corner at Whitman-Walker

There's a new, non-collecting cultural institution in the DMV: The Corner at Whitman-Walker in Washington, D.C. 

German curator Ruth Noack, the new executive director of The Corner, will curate these works in their first exhibition: We First Arrived which opens on Saturday, January 25, 2020 and runs until Saturday, March 28, 2020.

The artists include Julie Mehretu, Dan Graham, Jesse Presley Jones, Kay Rosen, Amy Sillman, Paul Pfeiffer, Molly Gochman, Boris Torres, POPE.L, Lisa Tan, Xaviera Simmons and others.

Maryland State Arts Council - professional webinar series

The Maryland State Arts Council presents its first ever professional webinar series! Their Winter 2020 series will begin January 13th, and they will host multiple webinars each week until the end of February. All webinars are one hour long and free to the public. There will be a Q and A session after each webinar. If you have any questions you would like to submit before attending a webinar, please send them to Registration is required for each session.

January 13th: Welcome to MSAC! 
An overview of the Maryland State Council including what we do, ways to get involved and where to find information.
 Led by MSAC Executive Director, Ken Skrzesz and Deputy Director Steven Skerritt-Davis. Register here.

January 15th: Maryland Traditions: What is the Folklife Network?
MSAC will fund three new regional folklife centers in 2021: one in Baltimore City, one in mid-Maryland (Carroll, Frederick, and Howard counties), and one on the Upper Eastern Shore (Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, and Talbot counties). Organizations interested in learning how to become a regional folklife center should join this webinar to learn more about the Folklife Network, which funds activities supporting Maryland's living cultural traditions. 
Led by State Folklorist, Chad Buterbaugh. Register here.

January 16th: Public Art 101 for Organizations
For communities interested in developing public art, this webinar will guide administrators/project managers from visioning and planning, through the artist selection process, artwork design, fabrication and installation. We will also review the Public Art Across Maryland grant program and address specific application questions to ensure your organization is prepared to apply. This webinar is also informative for artists seeking to enter the public art field.
Led by MSAC Public Art Program Director, Liesel Fenner. Register here.

January 22nd: Folklife Opportunities for Independent Artists
MSAC supports folklife artists with direct grants, resources at regional folklife centers, professional development, and consultation. Independent artists working in folklife, or community-based living cultural traditions handed down by example or word of mouth, should join this webinar to learn more about opportunities through MSAC's folklife program, Maryland Traditions. 
Led by State Folklorist, Chad Buterbaugh. Register here.

January 28th: Understanding and Marketing Arts & Entertainment District Property Tax Incentives 
(for A&E District Managers)
Maryland’s A&E Districts legislation allows local jurisdictions to enact property tax credits, but implementing and marketing the credits can be tricky. Join MSAC staff and A&E District Managers Stuart Eisenberg (Gateway) and Jennifer Merritt (Crisfield) for an interactive discussion about creating, implementing, and marketing A&E District property tax credits. 
Led by MSAC Deputy Director Steven Skerritt-Davis. Register here.

February 6th: Smart Simple Tutorial
Smart Simple is MSAC's new grants platform. Learn how to navigate the platform and how to complete applications such as the Creativity Grants application and the Maryland Touring Grants application.
Led by MSAC Program Directors Emily Sollenberger and Laura Weiss. Register here.

February 10th: MSAC Grantwriting 101
Learn basic do's and don'ts in writing grant narratives for MSAC and what our panelists look for in describing yourself as an individual artist, teaching artist, and/or organization.
Led by MSAC Director of Grants and Professional Development, Dana Parsons. Register here.

February 21st: Equitable and Accessible Regranting for County Arts Agencies
Maryland’s 24 county arts agencies help extend the reach of MSAC, in part by distributing grant funds to local nonprofits and independent artists. This webinar will review strategies local arts agencies can employ to distribute grant funds equitably and to make grant processes accessible and transparent. 
Led by MSAC Director of Grants and Professional Development, Dana Parsons. Register here.

February 26th: Canva Tutorial
Learn how this free tool can help with your print & digital marketing. Walk through the basics on how to utilize this website to make flyers, social media posts, brochures, presentations and more. 
Led by MSAC Program Director, Emily Sollenberger and Marketing & Communications Manager, Amelia Rambissoon. Register here.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Call for local artists

Spotlight Art Series@Touchstone Gallery 2020
Spotlight Solo Exhibition Dates: June 3 – 28, 2020
Juror: Adah Rose Bitterbaum, Owner and Director, Adah Rose Gallery

Deadline: Monday, February 3, 2020 11:59 PM Eastern Time
Entry fee: $45

Spotlight Art Series 2020 is an opportunity to have a solo exhibition at the Touchstone Gallery. A successful applicant will enjoy a front window 90 sq. ft. wall exhibition space in our street level gallery located in downtown Washington DC. If you don’t get selected for solo exhibition, you still get to exhibit one artwork, no larger than 12” in any dimension, in 2020 as part of Local Guest Artists Group show at a date to be specified.

For a full prospectus and to apply visit
Touchstone Gallery is an artist-owned gallery located at 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC, close to several major national galleries. Since its founding in 1976, Touchstone has maintained a reputation for exhibiting contemporary work of high quality and innovation. Touchstone’s mission is to exhibit diverse contemporary visual art and to promote artistic talent in the DC region.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Scientists Have Solved One of History's Weirdest Leonardo da Vinci Mysteries

Scientists may have solved one of the great Leonardo da Vinci painting mysteries – why the glass orb in the Salvator Mundi painting (dated to around 1500 CE) shows no signs of the refraction and reflection of light that might be expected.
The answer, according to computer models run by a team from the University of California, Irvine, is that in the painting Jesus is holding a hollow rather than a solid orb, which would have appeared the way that da Vinci depicted it.
Details here. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Cuban actress to play Monroe

Then this...
Collider reports that Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knock Knock, War Dogs) is in early talks to star in the film, which could begin shooting as early as this summer. The Cuban actress would be taking over the role last attached to Jessica Chastain, then Naomi Watts before her.

Monday, January 06, 2020

On the anniversary of a hero's death

Five years ago my father died on this day... here's my eulogy from that date:
"Hoy se ha caido otro roble en la selva del amargo exilio" is how I always thought that my father's eulogy would begin once he died.

"Today another oak falls in the jungle of bitter exile," began the eulogy for the man whose bloodlines my children and I carry on.

Florencio Campello Alonso died today at age 90 in Miami, the heart of the bitter Cuban Diaspora. Like many Cubans of his generation, he was the son of European immigrants to Cuba. His Galician parents left the scraggy mountains of northern Spain's ancient Celtic kingdom and in the first decade of the 1900s migrated to the new nation of Cuba upon its liberation from Spain.

Galicians have always been uneasy subjects of the Spanish crown, stubbornly hanging on to their ancient Celtic traditions, to their own language and to their bagpipes, so it is no historical surprise that they left their mountain homelands en-masse and headed to the new tropical paradise of Cuba, free from the heavy hand of the Spanish monarchy.

And thus it was never a surprise to me that my father was both a fighter against heavy-handed rulers, a lover of freedom, and one who was never afraid to re-start a life for the better, even if it involved discarding the old. 
My father could have been one of the privileged few who currently rule  atop the food chain of Cuba's Workers' Paradise. But instead of accepting the benefits of oppression, this most valiant of men chose the harsh path of right over wrong.

And he paid for it dearly (he spent years in Concentration Camps), but when he died, his soul was clean.

In his youth, my dad worked the brutal hours of the son of an immigrant who was slowly building a small financial empire in eastern Cuba. My father was pulled from school as soon as he learned to read and write, and like his two other brothers and eight sisters, he was expected to work and contribute to building a familial empire.

And he did, as my mother relates the stories of my father's childhood in the fields of eastern Cuba, a blond creole in a land of jingoist natives... he trying to out-Cuban the "real Cubans"... how he organized a labor union of the exploited Haitians who worked almost as slaves at the Los Canos Sugar Mill, how he joined a group of bearded rebels in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra in the fight against a tyrant, how he ran for the leadership of the Sugar Workers' Union and beat the Communists to the post, and how he spent years in a Castro Concentration Camp, jailed for the crime of refusing to join the Party, because he believed in Democracy and not Communism. 
And because of that stubbornness, in the 1960s he was offered the bitter pill of exile, and this brave man decided to choose family... and left his birth place, and thus became another immigrant within two familial generations and brought his wife and child to another new land.

And it is to him that I owe the greatest gift that a father can give a son: the opportunity to grow in freedom in the greatest nation in the history of this planet.

It is because of my father's courage that I was raised in this country and not in a land bloodied by brutality and oppression.

It is because of my father's teachings that I was raised with the conviction that freedom is not free and never to be taken for granted; after all, he fought for freedom and then Castro, the man who inspired  the fight, ended up being a worse dictator, eventually destroying all notions of freedom for all of his people.

It is because of my father that I was taught that every citizen owes his  nation some form of service, and that's the main reason that I signed (at age 17) to serve in the US Navy.

It is because of my father that I despise anyone who hides behind the mask of victimism to excuse failures and shortcomings.

When our family arrived in New York in the 1960s, my father began to work in a factory three days after he landed at the airport; my mother (who came from a privileged Cuban family and had never worked a day in her life) found a job as a seamstress five days later. That pattern was repeated for decades as they worked their way in a new nation.

"We thought we'd be back within a few years," was the answer given to me when I once asked the question about leaving their birthplace. When that didn't materialize, they became fierce Americans in the "United States of Americans" sense... these were the "America None Better!" set of immigrants, and in my Dad's case, you better be ready to fight if you dissed the USA.


Always a fighter he was... and always for the right reasons.

Cubans are archaic immigrants... we love this great nation because we  recognize its singular and unique greatness; perhaps it is because our forebears had the same chance at greatness and blew it.

And my Dad loved this nation even more than he once loved Cuba... perhaps it is the genetic disposition of the serial immigrant. After all, his father had left his own ancient Celtic lands and kin for a new land... which he learned to love dearly.

My father always wanted to make sure that I knew that I was an "Americano" and not another forced-on label.

"Labels," he'd say, "are just a way to separate people."

By labels he meant "Hispanic" or "Latino" or anything with a "-" between two ethnic words.

I also remember as a kid in New York, when he bought a huge Hi-Fi record player-color-TV console... that thing was huge. He bought it "lay-away" and he'd pay $10 a week to the store and him and I would walk all the way from our house on Sackman Street to the store on Pitkin Avenue to make the payments every Saturday - he never missed a single payment, and that taught me a lesson.

It was soon playing my Dad's favorite music, which oddly enough was Mexican music (Cuban music was a close second)... and he knew all the words to every charro song.
Guadalajara en un llano, Mejico en una laguna... 
Guadalajara en un llano, Mejico en una laguna...Me he de comer esa tuna 
Me he de comer esa tuna.... aunque me espine la mano.
That Jorge Negrete song... being shouted often on weekends at the top of his lungs from our apartment in a mostly Italian neighborhood in East New York in Brooklyn must have raised some eyebrows.

My dad and I watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon on that TV set... we also watched loads of Mets games... and in 1969 and 1972 went to Shea Stadium to see the Mets win in '69 and lose in '72. He really loved baseball and he really loved those Mets!

When I joined the Navy at age 17, my first duty station was USS SARATOGA, which at the time was stationed in Mayport in Florida, so my Dad decided to migrate south to Florida and moved to Miami... just to be close to me.

He and my mother spent the next 40 years in the same apartment while I was stationed all over the world.

When I visited him today in Miami, he looked good and freshly shaven... this is a good thing, as my father was a freak about hygiene... and that's a common "creole" trait.

The Hospice nurse almost teared up when I told her that my parents have been married for 60 years.

I looked at this old "gallego"... his skin as white as paper, his eyes as blue as the sky, and his head (once full of blond hair) as bald and shiny as the old Cuban sing song ("Mira la Luna, mira al Sol... mira la calva de ese.....") and I saw the generations of Neanderthals, Denisovans and Gallego Homo Sapiens that led to my bloodlines... the generations of fighters, of strugglers, and of tough guys who didn't take no for an answer and who made a better place for others. 

And I felt at peace and grateful.

And as my father died tonight, after an extubation,  all that I can think  to say to him is "Thank you for your courage... from me, and from my children... and soon from their children. You opened a whole new world for them."

I love you Dad... Un Abrazo Fuerte! Thank you for your gifts to me and my children and it is no coincidence that you died on El Dia de Los Reyes.