Scrolling through urban landscape artist Karen Woods' work on the Stewart Gallery Website has a distinctly Benjamin Button feel—Boise grows younger and less congested right before your eyes. You watch as her 2008 pieces, which depict Boise's streets as an darkly chaotic rain-smudged traffic jam, blend into her 2007 paintings, showing dusty, sun scorched construction sites peppered with orange traffic cones, which then leads into her 2006 work, approaching the urban street from a more calming, tree-shaded, sometimes voyeuristic viewpoint.
Woods, who rides around in her car snapping photos of traffic signals, power lines, cars and construction sites, finds inspiration in scenes most of us prefer to ignore. In her artist statement, Wood describes her attraction to these mundane subjects as an interest in the "co-existence and interaction of natural and constructed elements in my surroundings." Though her paintings capture these scenes exquisitely—raindrops obscure the view from behind car windshields as headlights from approaching cars shine brightly on water-slicked roads—there's something distinctly unsettling about her work. Evoking the teeth-gritting tediousness of being stuck in traffic and the confusing chaos of maneuvering around potholes and construction, Woods' work makes you feel like you're counting down the minutes until you turn the corner on your street and arrive safely at home.
If this type of well-rendered anxiousness entices you, then rev up your engine and head down to Stewart Gallery on Friday, Sept. 25, for the opening reception of Woods' new body of work titled "Inside Looking Out." Leave plenty of time to navigate traffic to make sure you arrive before 6:30 p.m., when Woods will give an artist's talk about the inspiration behind her new pieces.
Friday, Sept. 25, 6-9 p.m., Stewart Gallery, 1110 W. Jefferson St., 208-433-0593, stewartgallery.com.