Warren Criswell is not a legend. He’s real — a real, live, erudite artist, a sometime illustrator of sexy scenes, a sometime animator, and he’s been at it for 30 years. Starting Saturday, M2 Gallery in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center will exhibit more than 30 of Criswell’s works made during that three-decade career.
When I write erudite, I am referring to such works as “Gotterdamerung.” (Thinking about it, you might say all his works take inspiration from literature or music.) For the simply sexy, see “Lap Dance.” When I think of what I’d like to see at M2, I think “Half-Finished Hell,” triggered by a Swedish poet’s verse, “Half-Finished Heaven.”
The press release from M2 notes how Criswell got to Arkansas and provides a bit of bio:
Warren Criswell was born in West Palm Beach, Florida in 1936 and has lived in Arkansas since his bus broke down here in 1978. Primarily a self-taught painter, Criswell is also a printmaker, sculptor and animator. He has had 42 solo exhibitions in the United States and one in Taiwan. His work has been included in 75 group exhibitions in New York, Atlanta, Washington DC, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, Germany and Taiwan, and is represented in the permanent collections of many institutions. In 1996 he was awarded a fellowship grant for painting and works on paper by the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2003 an Individual Artist Fellowship Grant for painting and drawing by the Arkansas Arts Council.
I wrote about Criswell’s bi-weekly confabs with fellow artists David Bailin and Sammy Peters in 2015. There I recounted Criswell’s reason for coming to Little Rock in the first place: He had been doing research for a post-apocalyptic novel in which the rising sea had turned Little Rock into beach. The camper was named Toad Hall, after the home of the Kenneth Grahame character in “The Wind in the Willows.” After the camper broke down, Criswell called it “Towed Hall.”
Also going up Saturday at M2 are new works by gallery artists Robin Tucker, Bryan Frazier and Steve Adair.