Vidor Sculptor Charlie Stagg Dies After Fall Into Fire Pit at Backwoods Visionary Compound

Vidor sculptor Charlie Stagg died yesterday at UTMB in Galveston from burns suffered when he fell into an open fire pit at his eccentric folk-art style glass bottle and cement home and studio in the woods near Vidor, TX. He was 72.

One of East Texas’ best kept secrets, Stagg began the free-range building project, the A. V. Stagg Art Studio and Wildlife Preserve, his major work, in 1981, on family farmland. Although he lived alone with cats, dogs, goats and king snakes, but no air conditioning, he welcomed frequent visitors to his visionary environment, where he continued to carve and assemble works from pine branches and found objects which have been featured in many shows across the country.

Despite his outsider lifestyle, Stagg was an academically trained artist with a degree from the Tyler School of Art who chose to isolate and immerse himself in his work, free from  distractions and pressures.

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4 responses to “Vidor Sculptor Charlie Stagg Dies After Fall Into Fire Pit at Backwoods Visionary Compound”

  1. I remember very well when he showed up at Tyler, I was an undergrad.

    Charlie had the most impressive beard long before ZZ Top
    This sad news has been forwarded to others from Tyler that him better.

  2. Please note that Charlie did not fall into a fire pit. Don’t know where the Houston Chronicle got their info. He did burn himself on his woodstove, but he was already very, very ill at the time. Truthfully, his body just gave out. It’s not as sensational as it sounds, and he was receiving excellent care from family and friends. This makes it sound like he was being neglected!

  3. In 1987 we participated in an exhibition curated by James Surls at Blue Star in San Antonio which was then barely a year old. Our contribution to this show was a suitcase that we bolted to the rear bumper of Jack’s pickup truck and dragged all the way from Houston to San Antonio. Although we drove along old highway 90, we still managed to get stopped twice by the highway patrol who ordered us to remove the suitcase, which we promptly did, then promptly re-attached upon their departure. We finally arrived at Blue Star that late that evening to be greeted at the door of the exhibition space by none other than Charlie Stagg, buck naked (buck nekkid). We slept on the concrete floor that night because none of us had any money to do otherwise. We spent the next day installing our work. Charlie’s piece was one of his signature wood corkscrew snake-like things, part twisting Clyde Connell, part whittled erector set tower, and preposterously, ambitiously gigantic. Later we downed more than a few beers together at the opening. This is how we met Charlie. We remained friends ever since, seeing him less frequently as our lives changed and he became ill. Charlie was one of a kind and thoroughly Texan- a friendly fiercely independent iconoclast. We’ll miss you, Charlie, and we’ll see you on the westward side…

  4. I grew up with Charles and his sisters, Peggy and Juanita–our mothers were lifetime friends. I had not seen Charles since we were kids but had visited his mother, Audrey, in the late 1980s.

    I now live in the Kansas City area but several years ago I saw a program on public TV called Rare Visions and Roadside Attractions that featured Charles and his house. I recognized him because of his distinctive laugh which was just like his mother’s laugh. Through the TV station and Beaumont Art Museum I was able to talk to Charles and then he wrote a letter. He invited me to visit his place and I regret that I never got to do that. He told me that he was in ill health and that he drank a good bit and many of the bottles he had emptied himself. He told me a little about his life and that he had married a couple of times but they had not worked out. He was very interesting to talk to and we talked about our memories of times we spent as children. We spent lots of time in that place on South 105 and I have fond memories of their home.

    A mutual friend contacted me when he died and I was sorry to hear that. He was friends with my brother, Dale, who also died in recent years.

    Nothing that I have read mentions his sisters and I wonder if they still live in the Vidor area. At one time, and maybe still, Peggy lived across the road from Audrey and Eteian and Juanita’s husband had a business in Vidor.

    I also wonder if anyone is still keeping that building open for people to visit.

    Again, I am sorry to hear that Charles died because he had so much to offer. We’d all be better off if we lived as simply as Charles.

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