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100 Creatives 2012: Lillian Warren, painter

One of Lillian Warren's mesmerizing trafficscapes.
One of Lillian Warren's mesmerizing trafficscapes.
Courtesy of the artist

What She Does:

When Lillian Warren moved to Houston from St. Louis nearly 20 years ago, she thought her practice as a landscape painter was over. Where St. Louis had picturesque meadows and lakes, Houston had cell towers and freeway overpasses. But one day something clicked, and Warren saw the possibility in painting these all-too-familiar sights. Her "Cityscapes" series put her on the map, so to speak, and her career has never been the same since, as she's focused on capturing the contemporary landscape in all its displaced, anonymous glory.

Warren's since followed up her "Cityscapes" with two notable series -- "Trafficscapes," which capture the feeling of endless limbo that is driving in Houston, and, more recently, "Waitscapes" -- portraits of people in another kind of limbo, waiting in airports, doctors' offices, the DMV. An exhibition of this latest work recently wrapped at Lawndale, where it enveloped viewers in the peculiar contemporary isolation and anonymity of its subjects, who often escape into themselves through their cell phones.

Like a gift from the art gods, all three series took Warren by surprise.

"I was going about my daily life, and suddenly I saw them," said Warren, who lives in the thick of Houston's art scene, in the Museum District. "With the trafficscapes, I was driving back from the Galleria area, traffic was thick, I was annoyed. Then it hit me. I saw this long multi-level snake of cars winding through space and time, everyone sealed in a personal cocoon, all of us trapped in no man's land, unwilling but docile participants in this insane experience. Well, after that I had to see if I could capture something of that feeling and that visual impact."

Warren captures this feeling in exquisite detail, painting in acrylic on sheets on Mylar. The effect is that of a watercolor painting, which is only appropriate for her urban landscapes.

Why She Likes It: "Being an artist is endlessly challenging and rewarding. It keeps me in touch with myself and my world. It reminds me to love the questions and not just the answers. And occasionally when a painting works, I can step back, look at it, and think, 'Wow, I did that!'"

What Inspires Her: "I get inspiration from a lot of different places: other painters, photography, dance, poetry, music, nature, everyday life."

If Not This, Then What: "I might be a writer. I have enormous respect for good writing. It can open minds and connect people in a way no other art form can. It's also very, very hard work."

If Not Here, Then Where: "That's hard to say. I really like Houston. I moved here in the mid-1990s for the reason so many people come here -- a job! I must admit I had very low expectations for the city. Now I love the city, its vibrant performing and visual arts community, diversity, the openness of the people. I even like warm weather. I guess if I won the lottery I might split my time between Paris and New York City."

What's Next: "I'm participating in a group show at Darke Gallery, 'Paper Works,' that opens this Friday. Beyond that I'm thinking about where to take the 'Trafficscapes' and 'Waiting' series. I think both series have running room."

You can see works from Lillian Warren's "Trafficscapes" series at Darke Gallery, 320 Detering Street, from October 5-27. For more information, call 713-542-3802 or visit www.darkegallery.com.

More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Carl Lindahl, folklorist, UH professor Sutapa Ghosh, film producer and Indian Film Festival of Houston organizer Tom Stell, actor, writer, director Gregory Oaks, teacher and Poison Pen co-founder Oliver Halkowich, dancer and performer Lupe Mendez, poet and poem pusher Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician Matthew Detrick, classical musician Travis Ammons, filmmaker Florence Garvey, actress Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist JoDee Engle, dancer David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor Jessica Janes, actress and musician Dennis Draper, actor and director Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright


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