"That Day: Laura Wilson," a memorable, powerful exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, closes Sunday. So I began my interview with Wilson by asking:
"If you have a choice on Sunday, of going to Laura Wilson's show or seeing Zoolander 2, which should you do?"
You can bet that one drew a laugh, since the latter stars Wilson's son, Owen, in the sequel of Zoolander, made with longtime family friend Ben Stiller.
"I would definitely do both," she said. "Anyone can easily do both."
As a mother, was she horrified by Owen's long, unkempt hair in Zoolander 2?
"I wasn't horrified," she said. "I was startled."
Her delivery was a perfect deadpan, so it's not hard to see where her three, Dallas-born sons get their acting talent.
About her own work, Wilson said she feels a profound sense of gratitude in having been able to explore the communities profiled in her 72 photographs, most of which are in stunning black and white. She has a knack for capturing, as the museum description puts it, hard-bitten and fiercely independent people, framed by beauty and violence, characters that easily cut apart our stereotyped views of the American West.
"I am so grateful," she said, "for all the opportunities I had to photograph these diverse people. I am so lucky to have had the chance to get to know them, to photograph them, to learn about how they're living."
Many, she said, "are part of a disappearing world." Her portraits zero in on fighter pilots, lion hunters, six-man high school football players and Hutterites. She explores dogfighting and cockfighting, debutantes, border issues, Lambshead Ranch in West Texas and the isolation and poverty of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
She came away feeling moved "by the dignity of hardworking people," many of whom are so "very accomplished in what they do."
Wilson's show offers an extraordinary look at the sociology of the American West, which simply isn't one that most people have in mind.
"The West," she said, "isn't just one idealized view. You can see here in this exhibition the variety and the diversity of the people living in the West today."
In addition to profiling longstanding but lesser-known cultures of American life, Wilson adds memorable portraits of singer-songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore, actor Harry Dean Stanton, playwright Sam Shepard and an artist-photographer who influenced her own work, the great Richard Avedon.
So what's next?
She's assembling two books, one that profiles people she considers the pre-eminent writers around the world. They include Gabríel Garcia Márquez, whom she interviewed just before he passed away; Richard Ford, who wrote The Sportswriter, among other fine books; and Annie Proulx, whose fiction led to such movies as The Shipping News and the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain.
The second book will be a behind-the-scenes look at moviemaking.
"And so, I was just up at the Zoolander 2 premiere and," she said with a laugh, "I got some pretty good pictures."
So, before or after seeing the final day of the Amon Carter show on Sunday, maybe you should check out Zoolander 2, if only to catch a sneak preview of one of Wilson's next books.
Here is the official trailer for Zoolander 2: