SXSW: A Day with Daddy-O

3 16 2012

Bob Wade at the Chicken Ranch

Bob Wade with 5th/58th at the Chicken Ranch installation
Photo: Lisa Wade

Yesterday we had the thrill of discovering Austin through the eyes of a true local, Texas artist Bob Wade.

Known for bringing a kick of Austin to New York, Wade’s legendary Iguana once charmed lower Fifth Avenue during its drama- and hilarity-filled perch atop the Lone Star Cafe in 1978 (this iguana now suns on the roof of the Fort Worth Zoo’s animal hospital; you can see its Lizard Lift here).  His art has been seen throughout the world and state, including a pair of larger-than-life cowboy boots in San Antonio (they originally were in Washington, DC).  And it is Wade’s refreshing sense of humor and carefree sensibility that makes him the perfect sort of tour-guide to this Texas city known for its laid-back, artistic leanings.

Ranch 616

Mural at Ranch 616

Daddy-O picked us up on the corner of Seventh and Congress just moments after connecting with 5th/58th over the phone.  We briefly explained that wanted to discover his Austin City Secrets.  Most people (including ourselves) may have shied at the thought of taking two relative strangers around for spin… not Daddy-O, though.  Ever the relaxed artist, he cruised us through favorite haunts showcasing his work like Ranch 616, Shoal Creek Saloon and Austin Museum of Art at the Laguna Gloria, as well as the waterfront Hula Hut.  It was like we were long-lost friends.  Austin is his town, and everybody knew the cowboy funk artist by name.

Shaol Creek Saloon

VW Bug New Orleans Saints Helmet at Shoal Creek Saloon 

Most notably recognized for his color-enhancement of vintage black and white photographs, Wade is known as the pioneer of cowboy funk and ambassador of Texas culture.  He’s a relaxed fellow, and so naturally his favorite spots were equally low-key. Red 616 served up margaritas and Tex-Mex dishes alongside one of Wade’s photo-emulsion murals hanging on the back wall.  At Shoal Creek we sat creek-side, drank Shiner Bach and enjoyed his favorite dish, a chicken and duck gumbo. Upon leaving, he asked us to pose beneath a New Orleans Saints helmet he fashioned from an old VW Bug (creating from the unexpected is a common thread in Wade’s work).  Later we zoomed to the Austin Museum of Art at Laguna Gloria where we previewed his latest installation, created as part of the temporary miniature golf course featuring holes designed by different artists.  Called the Chicken Ranch, Wade’s multi-level installation challenged putters with big chicken sculptures, repurposed backyard slides and pvc-piping.  Moments later we were on the lake at Austin mainstay the Hula Hut where, hovering just beyond the restaurant’s floating decks, leaped one of Wade’s more notable sculptures, a giant fish.

Big Fish at the Hula Hut

Unlike many artists who closely guard any adjustment to their work, Wade embraces these changes with his unique joie de vivre.  For instance, he proudly showed us his iguana’s accessories that change with the season — a TCU banner and Santa cap, for instance.  In addition, Wade marveled at the Hula Hut’s ingenuity in using his sculpture to benefit local charities (when you feed the fish $2, it will spit water, shake about and cause a stir with bubbles).  And perhaps this is the reason this Texas artist is so beloved by his town and state… because, in this fast-paced world, it’s rare to find someone who so easily and happily goes with the flow.

at Ranch 616

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