More Drawings, More Thoughts
Written by Lenny Campello
Last issue I began to tell you the amazing story of what happened when one of the leading art collectors in the world, Mera Rubell, made a sudden visit to my studio. When we left the story, I had just finished a drawing of the psychopath known as Che Guevara.
The next time that I sit down to draw I hit a groove and deliver five new drawings in about four hours. I'm employing a lot of charcoal dust to cover large areas and create a minimalist drawing concept. "Superman flying naked and close to the ground in order to avoid NORAD radar" is such a drawing. We barely see the naked superhero, but we do see his elongated shadow on the road below. The lane dividers are just erased charcoal, now showing the not so pure white Arches paper underneath. I toy with the idea of rubbing more charcoal dust onto the drawing to create the impression of the car oil stains one always sees in the middle of the lanes. I abandon the idea; it is a pure and clean highway under the Man of Steel.
"True Believer" and "Woman who thinks that the tattoo that she just got on her back reads 'Bring Bush Back'" come out next. Both are very quick drawings and the first one is a highly worked drawing with an almost fanatical message. I'm not satisfied with the charcoal aspect of the dripping blood from the newly finished tattoo and so I bring out colored pencils and apply a subtle sense of color to the piece. This is rare for me.
Now there's red blood dripping down her arm. The second piece is the opposite: a rough almost unfinished drawing with a harsh, funny message. It is inspired by a cartoon I saw once which showed a burly sailor's back. A tattoo on his back reads: "Don't tell this guy what this tattoo says, he thinks he has a battleship."
I had set aside a nice vertical piece of dark paper and "Fallen Angel" materializes on it as I work furiously. It is the most minimalist of the pieces and it is finished in less than 15 minutes from beginning to end.
On the radio, the pundits are discussing Obama's speech at Oslo accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. I take a break and do some more Face-booking and I come across DC artist Mary Coble's profile picture on Facebook and it triggers an idea in my head. Coble and Nobel seem to align and "Age of Obama - Nobel Peace Prize" is created. This is the second "Age of Obama" drawing that I've done. In the first, done while Obama was a candidate, the figure is canvas to a history of the candidate in the early days of the election. It is now in a private collection in Ireland.
In this second "Age of Obama" drawing, the figure is host to selected portions of the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
I want to have some coherence to the work that I want to show Rubell, and many of these pieces have a seminal beginning in my historical interest in the Picts. And so out comes a Pictish drawing.
The Pictish drawing is the one that worries me the most. It is almost fantasy in nature. Will Rubell understand my historical interest in the subject and how it is the seed to the more contemporary work?
I take a break as I am tapped out and on Saturday afternoon we all visit some open studios and drop by the Washington Glass School, Red Dirt and Flux Studios. Rubell has already been to her designated visits there and excited artists tell me about her and her entourage. I sense some disappointment, some hope and certainly a lot of excitement.
I begin to gather another aspect of the impact that this influential person's tiring and superhuman effort (36 studios in 36 hours) is causing on the DC art scene. Even the Washington Post, well-known amongst DC area artists for its apathy and indifference towards the local visual art scene has sent a photographer to track her and even the Post's freelance art critic has overcome her ennui about the DC artists and galleries that she is tasked with covering and is following Rubell to some of the studio visits, but soon drops out.
I'm angsty about the whole thing and can't wait to get back to my studio and create some more work. I want to make sure that I make an impact.
On the drive home I pass by at least three Vietnamese restaurants and wonder why all the Pho places have a number after it (such as PHO 95, PHO 301, etc.).
When I get home, another Che Guevara drawing begins to emerge. Much smaller, almost the opposite of the first piece. For almost a whole day the drawing shows a long-haired Che to the left of the drawing (where else), with a vast empty space to his right. Long hair years before the Beatles and hippies, aloof and alone as an adventurer in a foreign land so much different than his native Argentina.
That night I can't sleep much between fighting a nagging cough acquired while in Miami and racing ideas about how to finish the drawing.
On Sunday I wake up, calm and ready for the visit. And the last drawing crystallizes suddenly.
The Spanish words announce that "finally we denounce who betrayed Che." The capital letters answer the statement: FIDEL. I now have two of these... the circle is complete and I am ready for Rubell. It is 9:00AM on Sunday and I get a phone call from the WPA's Lisa Gold.
Is it OK if they come around noon instead of the originally scheduled time of 2PM? She asks. I will be either the last studio visited or the penultimate one.
I tell them that I am ready.
Next: What happened during the actual visit.