William Warren’s paintings of kudzu depict roadside sculpture gardens of fantastic, sometimes alien-looking forms. He told me there was good kudzu between Water Valley and Taylor.
Born in Princeton, New Jersey, by the time William Warren was in third grade, the other children in his class were impressed by his drawing abilities and asked him to draw dinosaurs and other things. By eighth grade, the political cartoons by David Levine that appeared in New York magazine inspired him to make his own pen and ink drawings of political satire. A versatile artist, he has been sculpting since high school. At Rhode Island School of Design is where he says, “I really started to paint. And that’s become, you know, sort of a lifelong pursuit. It’s really my primary passion.”
Warren and his wife, Pati D’Amico, started the Waiting Room Gallery in Providence, Rhode Island, as they were waiting for their house to sell so that they could move to the bohemian Bywater area of New Orleans. This was 1996. Warren recalls an accomplishment of his and D’Amico’s that happened in Providence that year before they moved to New Orleans:
We started Gallery Night. It was kind of like another overnight success because it grew from about eight galleries in the beginning to sixteen the second time and then we had a Charlie bus that took everybody around. So it was a great rejuvenator for the city arts scene. People had thought about it for years but it was that catalyst of a couple people getting together and saying ‘Let’s do it.’
They arrived in New Orleans on April Fools’ Day, 1997. In a big, double shotgun house in Bywater, Warren and D’Amico lived on one side and eventually opened the Waiting Room Gallery on the other side. He reflects upon the positive effect that affordable housing and real estate can have on an arts scene:
Bywater was very affordable at that time. It was really a bohemian art scene. Quintessential. And that really suited me. I always thought that sort of inexpensive, funky area really suited me. There were many painters, many writers, musicians galore. So it was a place that people could afford, and that’s a main ingredient in any art scene I think is affordability. Hopefully, affordable so that artists can buy their own spaces because I think we have a lot more control over the situation. Now, after the storm, that all changed. Everything got very expensive, very quickly actually. [. . .] Our gallery was kind of a pioneer of the area. We, another gallery around the corner from us, and then one on St. Claude. [. . .] in that area, there were only about three or four galleries and now there are about ten to thirteen galleries in the area.”
Warren and D’Amico moved to Water Valley in 2008. Warren’s hand-painted signs are found on storefronts along Main Street. In fact, last year, The Huffington Post published an article about him that was written by Lauren Walser for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Warren and D’Amico have been instrumental in the growth of the artistic community there. (Read more about their involvement with Bozarts Gallery in my previous post.) Their studios will be on the Art Crawl tour on September 19, 2015. For more information about the Art Crawl, go to the Water Valley Arts Council’s Facebook page.
Thanks to William Warren for allowing me to interview him and to share the images of his artworks. To see more artworks by William Warren, contact Bozarts Gallery at (662) 473-2484 or visit http://bozartsgallery.com/.
Follow me through the kudzu and byways of Mississippi and learn about the art I see and the artists I meet along the way.