Jim Woodson at Valley House

A trip to Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden in North Dallas is always a treat. It was a rush to get there by Saturday at 11:00 in the morning, and by the time we arrived at about 10:58, the parking lot was almost to the over-flowing point. I was actually surprised there weren’t already cars parked along Spring Valley Road, but there would be soon.

Woodson, who lives in Fort Worth part time and New Mexico part time, paints on large canvases that look representative of the natural desert landscape from a distance, but appear abstract when you get close. He encourages viewers to come close to look at the paintings.

Woodson currently teaches art at TCU, his Alma mater. He told the full room he had been drawn to the landscape since childhood, mostly because he wanted to be a cowboy and that’s where the cowboys were. He saw the landscape on many trips driving across Arizona and New Mexico on the way to California. Woodson grew up in Waco, Texas and says he never saw art until college days.

Woodson spoke about the concepts of chaos and order as those concepts relate to his works. He says one of the things he tries to incorporate in the paintings is the sense of the landscape as a verb instead of a noun.

“Mostly we have to slow down our thinking in able to get in to see a painting as activity,” Woodson says. “It’s very easy be to dismissive of things by naming them. In space I want to communicate an out there type of space versus an interior kind of space. Then we move closer to get more of an interior stream of consciousness. I want you to get close and lose the landscape.”

A lot of the paintings are created by looking out the window of Woodson’s New Mexico home. Some of them are created from sketches made on location. Woodson brought a stack of those drawings to show them to the visitors.

There was one member of the audience who identified himself as having one of Woodson’s paintings hanging at home. He said he liked the way it changed when the light changed in his home and the way it changed depending on his mood. There’s an aspect to Woodson’s work that makes the landscape less than certain. It is alive and his work seems to capture that aspect of it rather than a creating a record of a time and place.

“The world is activity,” Woodson says. “It’s not about a bunch of stopped things that we tend to produce when we put things into the realm of language.”

Later in the day we had a discussion about where art is going in general, and while that is a really hard question to answer, it seems what Woodson is accomplishing is a good place for it to be.

Valley House Gallery is located at 6616 Spring Valley Road in Dallas. Woodson’s work is on display through October 29.

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