Some Dallasites may be surprised to find that there is a sculpture garden and art gallery north of LBJ Freeway that has been presenting the work of contemporary artists to a faithful following for more than 60 years.
In 1953, Donald and Peggy Vogel bought a creekside, wooded lot in Far North Dallas and set up their print-framing business. Their workshop expanded into a gallery, and they added a sculpture garden where they highlighted contemporary, regional artists.
Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Center’s inaugural show featured the work of Austin sculptor Charles Umlauf, and since then it has displayed the work of world-class sculptors such as Henry Moore, Sorel Etrog and David Cargill.
Early on, Valley House gained a reputation as a dealer in fine French art and brought to Dallas the works of impressionist masters such as Paul Cezanne, Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet.
Valley House also produced high-quality catalogues to accompany its exhibitions and in the 1960s was commissioned to curate and write catalogues for the Amon Carter Museum.
Valley House typically has nine shows each year, sometimes presenting the work of one or two artists; other times, a show may highlight a particular theme and display the work of several artists.
Last Saturday, a large crowd filled the two-room gallery as two exhibitions opened. They feature the work of Texas artists and their different interpretations of life in the state.
Kathy Boortz: In Plain View is a mixed-media celebration of Texas' backyard birds, and Lindy Chambers: No Glass Slipper is about living off the grid in rural Texas.
Walking into a Kathy Boortz's exhibit is a little like being at a natural history museum. Boortz’s mixed-media sculptures of Texas birds feel like replicas — not completely lifelike but close, and each one is lovingly created.
Boortz produces wood, fired-clay and metal sculptures of owls, parrots and other birds, crafted from things found on her walks. One of the pieces uses a muffler to create a tree that is home to one of the many owls on display. Boortz skillfully sculpts wings, feet and leaves from steel and uses beads for the eyes of the
birds, which range from a delicate hummingbird to a large parrot.
The first thing you see when you walk into the room housing the paintings of Lindy Chambers is color, particularly pastel pinks and blues. Her large, colorful canvases are full of bunnies sitting in lawn furniture, dogs wading in pools, goats in trees, Disney characters such as Cinderella, eccentric trailers and yards littered with junk.
Chambers began her trailer paintings in 2011, inspired by the off-the-grid world of her home in rural Texas. Chambers apparently finds it delightful and fun; her paintings feel optimistic and busy.
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However, she shows a slightly darker side in "What Do You Want Freak?" — in which a bedraggled and tattooed Cinderella is shown opening the door — and again in the canvas "I’m Done With You," which is filled with trash, such as empty cans, chains and discarded wood covered in nails.
At first glance, the works of these two Texas artists have little in common, but both are interested in the things people discard. Chambers paints it; Boortz collects and repurposes it. The exhibitions will continue through July 22, and Chambers will give a gallery talk at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 24.
If you visit, do not miss the grounds and garden that are home to the work of more than 40 sculptors. The venue is a surprisingly peaceful oasis in North Dallas.
Lindy Chambers artist talk, 11 a.m. Saturday, June 24, Valley House Gallery, 6616 Spring Valley Road, free, valleyhouse.com.