Valley House Sculpture Gardens

To my delight, I spent most of last Saturday afternoon at the Valley House gallery. I met a few artists who show their work there (more on that later), and I thought it was interesting how they seemed to all be hanging out and chatting with the young, red-headed and affable gallery director Laura Green. I'm not surprised, really. What a wonderful place to hang out. 

Laura had invited me specifically to see the sculpture garden, which is in full bloom for spring. It had just stopped raining, and the air was still cool. Above, you can see the driveway that leads from the gallery to a fantastic private residence built in the early 1950s by the founders of Valley House Gallery, Donald and Peggy Vogel

The Vogels purchased the heavily wooded 4.5 acre lot, at the terminus of a dead end, gravel road. That road was Spring Valley, believe it or not. Back then, Spring Valley was a country lane, and today it's a six lane busy thoroughfare. The Vogels designed and built their house, a gallery, and a guest house on the property, all of which still stand.

Led by Donald, who was an artist himself, Valley House became famous for showing regional and contemporary artists as well as for bringing works by such Impressionist painters as Renoir, Monet, and Cezanne.

The Vogels' son Donald and his wife live in the home now, and have recently renovated it. (More on that later.)

Doug Newby talks about this house on his website, which features many of the most architecturally significant homes in Dallas.

In the 1980s, Erika Farkac, a landscape architect and Donald's first wife, redesigned the sculpture gardens which had originally been designed in 1959 by landscape architect Clarence Roy. Another son Kevin and his wife have been running the gallery for many years now.

I brought my camera and snapped these gorgeous shots of the gardens, which are accessed by paths along the sides of the house. This view is of the back of the house. The family operates the gardens like a public space, even though it's really their back yard. 

Normally the gardens aren't open on Sunday, but they'll be open from 12:30 until 3:30 on April 26 for the opening of America Works.  Laura says they'll be grilling hotdogs outside. You should go. I hope to.

There's a joyous quality to many of the sculptures in the gardens, don't you think? The sculptures are by notables Charles Umlauf, Mike Cunningham, Charles Williams, Nat Neujean, David Hayes, and Frederich Sotebier.

If you haven't been clicking on the images to make them bigger, it's worth it to see the details.

In 1969, Henry Moore gave a one-man show in the sculpture gardens. 

Can you see the rust-patinated figure peeking out from behind that tree? (Click on the image to seem it in more detail.)

Kinda makes you want to do a headstand, doesn't it?

Laura tells me that Trammel Crow, Sr., a friend of the Vogels, used to drive to the Vogels' remote homestead, to get away from the city and hide out.

Most areas are manicured, but the property is home to snakes, some of them poisonous, and to wild animals. Laura says she's seen a bobcat on the gravel drive.

At the end of this path, I saw a coyote, who came loping towards me after the rain had stopped. He was as much startled to see me as I was him. He was beautiful, with a ruddy coat. I didn't have time to get his picture before he took off sideways into a thicket of bamboo and bramble. I bet he just loves it out here.

Laura tells me people often come at noon during the week and bring their lunches. She asks that you check in at the gallery before wandering around alone in the garden. I didn't see a soul on Saturday in the gardens (except for that coyote), and it reminded me of the small sculpture gardens in France, where you might be the only person that day to have taken the train into the outskirts of Paris to visit.