.............Photo courtesy of Warren Criswell
 Aristeas I is based on Greek mythology. It was painted in 1996, and is the basis for an animation Criswell created.

Art by artist Warren Criswell, music by Bob Boury. (Video by Warren Criswell)
Criswell exhibit
hails 'Still Crazy'
By Ellis Widner
August 5, 2012


Most of us fear death.
..... Warren Criswell fears going sane.
......"For an artist, the trick is to preserve one's insanity," he writes in the artist's statement that accompanies his show at Cantrell Gallery in Little Rock.
.......So, based on the mix of paintings, prints, sculptures and watercolors in "Still Crazy," is Criswell crazy?
......The answer - in this show of past, present and what he calls future works - is a resounding yes.
......Criswell addresses many kinds of fear, in theform of death, in this show. Physical death. Death of ego. Death of creativity. And so on.
......Through this thoughtful, well curated (by the gallery's Clarke Huisman) mix of retrospective and current works, Criswell's muse hasn't abandoned him ... although the prospect, the experience of it, or fear of it clearly is on his mind.

... .No more so than in two striking images: the 2012 bronze sculpture Simone Jumps, where the muse is literally leaping out the window. It is presented on the wall at eye level for a deserved maximum impact. In the 2005 oil Departure of the Muse, the artist is asleep as the muse heads out the window.
......These two works also illustrate a fascinating aspect of this show - common themes in different mediums. For example, the 2008 oil Die gluckliche Hand becomes a monotype with pastel in 2011's Roadkill, a linocut and a sculpture.
......But Criswell's fascination with Greek mythology also commands attention, particularly on the striking Aristeas I, a 1996 oil and wax on board showing a crow emerging from a man's mouth as he lies on the beach. It too has seen continuance, including a recent animated form. Aristeas was a seventh century B.C. poet who,after he died, purportedly appeared 240 years later in Italy. He wanted a statue of himself and a new altar to the god Apollo. Aristeas said that he had been traveling with Apollo since his death in the form of a sacred raven.
......Other works worth contemplating: A Dryad in the Headlights, a 2012 charcoal and chalk on paper of a dryad (a Greek tree nymph) looking especially wonderful next to its predecessor, In the Forest of the Dryads; the oil and wax St. George and the Dragon finds the artist (as St. George) slaying a dragon in the form of a winged humanoid, perhaps the devil? A movie marquee touts the artist and, at the left, a woman talks away on a pay phone. The 2008 oil Icarus with its exploration of falling to the earth is as beautiful as it is unsettling.
......The watercolor Conjunction, painted this year, is a night landscape with the sky charged with heavenly bodies and possibilities. Peaceful? Look again.
......But whether you dive into his themes or not, Criswell is a very skillful artist who taps his psyche (and no telling who else's) to produce inspired work in a fascinating array of media.
......So don't worry about Criswell's craziness. As the late country music singer Waylon Jennings points out in his 1978 hit "I've Always Been Crazy," being crazy has "kept me from going insane."

Warren Criswell's Roadkill is a monotype with pastel.

"Still Crazy ...," Warren Criswell, through Aug. 18 at Cantrell Gallery, 8206 Cantrell Road, Little Rock. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, or by appointment. Info: (501) 224-1335 or cantrellgallery.com


 Published here by permission of the ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

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