Potomacite among the Picts
Jan. 8, 2004

F. Lennox Campello has an unusual area of expertise.

The Potomac artist and amateur historian has studied and drawn inspiration from the art and culture of the Picts, the fiercely independent people who first inhabited Scotland.

"Pictish Nation: Drawings Inspired by a Dark Age People," an exhibit of two dozen of Campello's charcoal drawings, is on view through Feb. 12 at the Fraser Gallery in Georgetown. These drawings interpret his vision of how Pictish men and women, and their tattooed bodies, may have looked.

Numerous myths, legends and theories exist about the Picts' origins, history and culture. Few can be proven because in 845 A.D., Kenneth MacAlpin usurped the throne of the Picts and Scots, murdered the members of the six royal houses to preserve the Scottish line for kingship and attempted to eradicate all traces of Pictish culture from Scotland.

Campello, who first learned about the Picts as a teenager, began focusing on them in 1989, when he started making regular visits to Scotland. He lived there for three years.

The designs of animals, objects and imaginary beasts Campello saw on the Picts' only tangible legacy -- standing stones dotting the Scottish countryside -- inspired his depictions of the Picts' tattoos. Europe's only matrilineal society, the Picts decorated their bodies with a diverse assortment of tattoos; their meanings have been lost to history.

The gallery, located at 1054 31st St., N.W., is open noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and by appointment. Call 202-298-6450.