F. Lennox Campello
This month we decided that we wanted to let our readers know just who F. Lennox Campello is and what better space to do that than in this column. Lenny has been writing Gallery Beat without fail for the Old Town Crier since 1996. We have been very fortunate to have him among our list of regular contributors for over 20 years.
In 2016 The Washington City Paper called him “one of the most interesting people around Washington, DC.”
DC area resident and widely acclaimed artist F. Lennox Campello will be having his first area solo art show in over 8 years this coming June at Rockville’s Artists & Makers Studios’ Main Gallery. The often controversial artist has been a DC area resident since 1992, when he was stationed as a Naval Officer in Crystal City. He is considered by many around the region to be one of the best-known capital area artists.
“Washington without Lenny is like a martini without an olive,” once said Jack Rasmussen, the director of American University’s Katzen Art Museum.
The Cuban-born Campello, who is also the author of the sometimes controversial “100 Artists of Washington, DC” book (published in 2011 by Schiffer Press), and who writes a monthly column for the Crier Media newspapers, and publishes also the highly popular and seminal “DC Art News” blog, is a well-known Mid Atlantic artist, art critic and writer, as well as being often heard on NPR discussing local and international art issues.
“For the last decade or so, most of my work has been exhibited mostly in national and international art fairs,” he notes. “It is great for showing and placing artwork all over the planet and expanding your audiences, but it also makes it hard to ‘accumulate’ enough work to do a solo show,” he concludes. For this solo show Campello has created several new multimedia pieces, a novel approach that he has been refining over the last decade, where traditional narrative drawing is married with embedded electronic components such as video, narrative sound and music.
In “Cuban by ancestry but American by the Grace of God”, Campello flexes his artistic muscles and social commentary skills in a biographical work that showcases a charcoal and conte self-portrait of the artist in the present, holding a frame where family videos and digital images are narrated by the artist documenting his arrival as a child (together with his political refugee parents) to the United States. To the left of the piece, Campello has depicted himself as a small child, running in his grandfather’s confiscated farm in Cuba. It is a powerful piece that expands the field of narrative artwork to a new, cutting edge contemporary dimension.
“It has almost everything that I love in it,” he notes. “There’s history, art, family, service to the country and community, more family.” Campello’s parents migrated to the US in the 1960s as part of the US government’s “Freedom Flights” program that allowed Cuban political refugee families to leave the island and migrate to the United States.
In what has become a tradition for Campello drawings, the former U.S. Navy officer cleverly uses the”cracks” on the background wall of the piece to employ the Navy’s legendary Falcon Codes as the first encryptor to double encrypt a background message using Celtic ogham as the second encryption method. He won’t reveal what the message is.
The Washington Post also once described Campello as a “Kahlophile since age 17”, in noting the artist’s obsession with iconic Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. As a 19-year-old Campello visited Mexico City and discovered the works of Kahlo. Almost immediately, he developed an artistic obsession with Kahlo’s image and began to create what by now adds up to hundreds of works on that uni-browed subject.
“I remember walking into the museum salon where the Two Fridas painting hung,” he recalls. “It was love, or more like witchcraft, at first sight. This large, spectacular painting swallowed my visual senses and attention, and hypnotized me as no work of art would do again until I saw Velasquez’s Las Meninas at the Prado in Madrid eight years later. For his solo show he returns to that favorite obsession with dozens of new works, including several novel 3D pieces on broken unfired bisque.
The artist was born in Santiago, Cuba and studied art at the University of Washington School of Art in Seattle, Washington from which he graduated in 1981. While there Campello helped to create the Arts NW Student Gallery in Seattle, the area’s first art gallery focused on student artwork. In the same year that he graduated from Washington, he won the William Whipple National Art Competition First Prize for Printmaking, the silver medal at the Ligoa Duncan Art Competition in Paris and the French “Prix de Peinture de Raymond Duncan,” also in Paris. Subsequently commissioned as an officer in the US Navy, Campello then lived in Spain, Scotland, Italy and the Middle East before returning to the US.
In addition to numerous galleries, his work has been exhibited at the McManus Museum in Scotland, the Brusque Museum in Brazil, the San Bernardino County Art Museum in California, the Musee des Duncan in France, the Frick Museum in Ohio, the Meadows Museum of Art in Shreveport, Louisiana, the Hunter Museum in Tennessee, the Sacramento Fine Arts Center in California, The Art League in Alexandria, The Museum of Contemporary Art in DC, the Rock Springs Art Center in Wyoming, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Boulder, Colorado, the Popov Museum in Russia, the Museum of Small Art in Malaysia, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum at the University of Oregon, and the Katzen Museum at American University.
The opening reception will be Friday, June 2nd, 2017 from 6-9pm, and the exhibition runs through June 29th. It is free and open to the public.
Artists and Makers Studios 2
12276 Wilkins Avenue
Rockville, MD 20852
O – (240)437-9573
M – (240)481-5034