click to view Criswell's exhibition
Like a trail of children walking to the front of the classroom, each performing a solo show-and-tell act, the subjects of Lynn Criswells wall pieces pose, gesture, offer, sign, and fade out. And just as a childs rich and complicated experience is implausibly encased in their naïve presentation to the class, Criswells simply rendered protagonists manage a complicated sleight of hand. A womans arm, raised in a game of patty-cake with no partner in sight, signals what these works are about: they present one move, and ask the viewer to make the next. Criswells Adjective, a bare bones grid comprised of 18 units, features taunts and encouragements hurled from childhood. Cheap retro script, edges blackened like dirty fingernails, calls out from each panel: Bully, Thin, Chubby and Sweet. These labels float high and centered like advertising display heads, yet below them, instead of illustrations, lie cracked and wrinkled putty colored plaster fields. The viewers mind has little choice, in automatic reflex, but to throw its contents onto this softly defiled emptiness. In the diptych Memento, a ballerina, begins the raised heel of a toe point. Her tutu and tights are fully inhabited, their flatness rising up in a wave of humped ruffle that swings an arc across her groin. But where her costume ends, the girl has vanished, shes gone. Purely present in Seeing Double is a grinning girl, her features etched in rich, milky lines. Her conjured daydream shows up as two conspiratorial rabbits, who press in huge and close behind her head, demi-gods whispering content were not privy to and surely want to guess.
Criswell works in lead, steel, and glass, handled until a dirtiness rises up. Her woods and color stains, in contrast, remain as pristine as a starched Sunday frock. The palette of greys, whites and oranges, elementary at first sight, is as rich and complicated as childhood emotions. Drawn outlines, always wavering, transform themselves from work to work: wiggling girlhood delight, the fear of the adult-watched child, and over there, the rippling aura of the magician.
Janice Porter, Director 1078 Gallery, Chico