As America becomes more urbanized, freeways are emerging as the life-blood of society shuttling people, goods and services from one place to another. These oil-on-wood scenes of I-84 and the I-184 Connecter by Boise artist Karen Woods offer a unique view of the urban landscape. Trained in Oakland, Calif., and Florence, Italy, Woods is best known for her landscapes and cityscapes of local subjects. She has been represented by the Stewart Gallery in Boise since 2000.
“I’ve always thought this was a cool section of the freeway, Woods says. There’s such a contrast to being isolated in a car while being surrounded by people coming and going. There’s both an oppressiveness and an openness to it.”
The title of this painting, “Gale Coming,” is derived from the delivery truck on the far left heading into downtown, but it also refers to the volatile weather, as well as the inevitable conflicts that come with growth.
Dark Overpass. Someone once advised me against living in a place where one had to drive into the sun on the way to work in the morning, and again into the sun on the way home.
Dark Overpass II. In deciding what to paint in this series, I looked for contrasts. Here I’m drawn to the contrast between the heavy dark overpass and the spacious light sky beyond it.
Franklin Exit. I don’t know why they built houses so close to this stretch of the freeway, but it always looks as if those homes are trying to hide behind the fence, or peek over just enough to see what’s going on.
Eagle Road Exit. My attempt here was to paint the pavement of the freeway to look as dynamic as the sky, and yet reflect it the way that a body of water does.
Blue Foothills. The vertical format was inspired by the art of Japanese screens, where everything seems to float, and even the mountains appear to be weightless. I aimed for the opposite, however. On this day even the sky seemed heavy and oppressive.
Cole Overpass. This tunnel is one of my favorites: just like the movie theatre close by, it has a cinematic quality: a brightly lit wide screen surrounded by dark walls and dim lights.
More. More furniture, more square footage, more houses, more people.
Heading West. The most loosely painted picture in the series aims to capture the feeling of movement along the connector, the threatening quality of the sky and the freeway sign, and the sense that sometimes everything looks better: calmer and lighter, further west on the horizon, where the sun sets.
Emerald Overpass 1-3. This is a triptych, three paintings connected, the format once again inspired by Japanese screens. I paint from photographs, taken (as a passenger) from numerous trips along the 184 and I-84 freeways.In three-dimensional space, driving in and among the streetlights, concrete barriers, overpasses and cell phone towers, I was drawn to their rhythmical quality. Painting these images felt more akin to writing sheet music—note the way these elements punctuate the space around them, the same way notes lay on a staff.