Lillian Warren's Deeply Human Portraits of Waiting at Lawndale Art Center

We've all been there before -- compulsively staring at our cellphones to occupy our minds with something, even just a colorful screen. Or maybe you're the dozing type, propping your head up on your arm in an uncomfortable half-slumber. Or maybe you do nothing at all and stare off blankly, absently into space.

Lillian Warren captures all types of existential boredom in her fantastic painting installation Wait with Me, now covering the walls of Lawndale Art Center's Grace R. Cavnar Gallery. The artist, who previously has primarily trafficked in documenting urban landscapes, became fascinated with her own boredom one day and decided to capture complete strangers without their knowing while they waited -- for their number to be called at the DMV, to board their plane, or at the mall for who knows what. Though strangers every one, they're all united by their boredom.

At the same time, the people are wholly unique. On about 20 or so sheets of Mylar, Warren has beautifully captured their body language -- the way a hefty man crosses his legs, the way a bag hangs half-open from a woman's arm, the way a man slouches, sinking down into his chair. These are all real people -- and not just because they were pulled from the artist's own experiences, but because they were drawn that way.

Warren goes a step further with her concept and has her unwitting models appear several times across panels of the Mylar to subtly reflect the passage of time. They change positions slightly, cross or uncross their legs, look down at their phones. She also draws them to different scales -- some loom front and center, while others are smaller, receding farther into the never-ending white space as if in their own whitewashed limbo.

It's hard not to enjoy this work. It's so human and familiar and contemporary in a "the way we live now" kind of sense. Warren perfectly captures that sense of isolation you can feel while in a crowd of people. And in the faces of the people just staring off into space, there's this haunting, depressing sense of counting the seconds and waiting for the inevitable passage of time, however long that might be.

"Lillian Warren: Wait with Me" at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main, runs now through September 29. For more information, call 713-528-5858 or visit www.lawndaleartcenter.org.

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