A Conversation with Lenny Campello about "100 Artists of Washington, D.C."

July 22, 2011

Tomorrow afternoon Conner Contemporary art gallery is hosting a book release party for award-winning artist, renowned art critic and consultant Lenny Campello’s  highly anticipated 100 Artists of Washington, D.C. The book, published by Schiffer, is bound in a beautiful coffee-table format that features, as the title suggests, 100 key artists working and exhibiting in the DC area as a part of their series on national artists. This is the first book that covers the DC region specifically, and features both veteran and emerging artists representing a wide range of styles and media.

ArtSee was thrilled to have a moment of Mr. Campello’s time before this exciting event to ask him some questions about the project…

ArtSee: What sparked your personal interest in this publishing this book?

CAMPELLO: It was sparked by the WPA’s & Mera Rubell’s “36 Studios in 36 Hours project” effort in late 2009. The mainstream media focused on some of the perceived negative aspects of the DC area art scene – showing their ignorance of the actual strength and diversity that exists in the DC area. It was at that point that I decided to try to author a series of books focusing on our area’s artists.

ArtSee: Can you comment on the selection process of these artists, in particular the emerging artists?

CAMPELLO: As a long time art critic and writer around our area, as well as a blogger, curator and as a former gallerist, I have a pretty deep knowledge database our area’s artists. But I also wanted to ensure that other area experts assisted me in offering names, so I asked about a dozen collectors, curators, art critics, artists and gallerists for a list of their 10 must have artists. Between that input and my own knowledge, I selected 100 when there could have easily been 500 in this book alone.

ArtSee:  How do you think this will enhance the growing DC art scene?

CAMPELLO: Hopefully this volume and the next two volumes will begin to showcase, outside of our own artistic circles, the wealth of talent that lives and works out of the capital region.

ArtSee: What excites you most about the release of this book?

CAMPELLO: Being able to finally see the end product of a LOT of hard work – this process was not easy, and I have learned a lot of lessons for the next two volumes.

ArtSee: How was this book different from other work you’ve done in the past?

CAMPELLO: I was expecting to have difficulties working with 100 different and very talented people, and so I prepared ahead of time by really padding deadlines, etc. I was still down to the wire with a dozen artists or so, who just couldn’t make deadlines. It was also different in that I had to enlist several folks to help me with editing a lot of the text.

ArtSee: What is next? Will there be a second edition or does the book stop here?

CAMPELLO: I plan to try to create two more volumes with 200 additional artists. Because this is 2011, this book will not really go out of print, as the publisher can always have more printed as demand requires it. So far it has been selling quite well in pre-orders and most area bookstores and libraries have already ordered it.

ArtSee: Do you have a favorite?

CAMPELLO: When I announced the list of 100 artists is caused a mini debate storm all over the regional internet, and I know that I made 100 folks very happy and pissed off a few thousand other artists. If I pick a favorite from those 100 I stand the danger of pissing off the other 99. Oh hell: my favorite in this book is the amazing work of Victoria F. Gaitan.

ArtSee: As an artist yourself, were you inspired to create new work during the publishing process of this book?

CAMPELLO: Oh you bet! The whole process of creating this book was married to my own creation of artwork – it’s all in the foreword.

ArtSee: Which artists, if any, do you feel relate with your artwork the most?

CAMPELLO: Excellent question, but I’m afraid that I am a bit of an out layer. My most recent work marries video with drawing, but it is all still within a narrative context, so I suppose artists whose work try to tell a story, describe an event, make a social commentary, etc. would be the ones that would fit an answer to this question.

ArtSee: Do you have plans to curate an exhibit featuring the work of these artists in one place?

CAMPELLO: Yes – more on that later… I’ve had a couple of gallery spaces, both in the DC area and outside DC ask me about that.

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Needless to say, both ArtSee and the DC community are tremendously excited about the release of 100 Artists of Washington, D.C. and especially look forward to seeing where the project evolves from here (we’re crossing our fingers for an upcoming exhibition!). The release party will be from 3-5pm, tomorrow (Saturday) July 23rd. There are a limited amount of books available for purchase at the event, or bring your own copy if you have it as many of the artists will be there to sign.

 

100 Artists of Washington, D.C Book Cover

 

Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Kendall E. Willey