Whenever traveling around Texas, you never know what you’ll find, something we’ve experienced a lot of. And during our frequent trips to east Texas, one interesting entry way on Highway 79 always kindled our curiosity, so we finally stopped to appreciate the art.
Out in the woods of east Texas, between Carthage and De Berry sits an interesting artist studio simply known as Wild….Donkey…..Art. Artist Rick Kuper is the creative and kooky sharp dress man behind this colorful depot dedicated to his craft, wood art.
Kuper and his collection of critters are sort of cooped up here, in a good way. Despite not having a car or drivers license since the 80’s he’s lived all over the country.
“Like a little gypsy going Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, up into Pennsylvania freakin Montana up into South of Anchorage Alaska, Colorado,” Kuper said. “I’d never live in Kansas, oh my God. When I went through there I was like, ‘There ain’t a tree nowhere for a hundred miles! Oh lets hurry up and get out of here!’”
Since the early 2000’s, this roadside studio has been his home. A place to create. Getting a chance to see Rick’s art is impressive, but his work with power tools is not something you see often.
“When I pick up the chain saw, I’ll take over the whole show,” Kuper said. “I always said that you can get about 10 sassy good looking hot mamas dancing in their bikinis over here and then you could get Rick getting down on a big six foot eagle, and with time I’m going to get most of that crowd over to me.”
Everyday he makes masterpieces. Carving, cutting, and chain sawing his visions into realities. Some of them more peculiar than others.
“Architecture, aeronautics, airplanes, helicopters,” Kuper said. “Here we got, this is all entirely done out of wood. A drag boat, old 70 model drag boat.”
Since he was a boy, this is what the older man from the Ozarks has wanted to do. Use his hands to create the beauty of the world around us.
“They talk about road side artists as being outcasts, like the unaccepted or something and God have I been accepted by every walk, every kind of person,” Kuper said. “That’s wonderful.”
When he was a younger, a near death experience strangely enough, involving a falling tree, inspired him artistically and spiritually.
“I was 19 years old and I got smashed to death. I died for 31 minutes,” Kuper said. “I went out of body and it got dark all around my soul and I could see a torso, no legs no arms and I had a hand, a warm hand on the shoulder of my soul showing me what I just did. Then I came in coughing up blood and the paramedics 80 miles out of Saint Louis come out and got me. It was like three days in the hospital, little blood in my bladder, tiny fracture in my hip and then they were gonna put me on the news and I did a little Irish jig and said, ‘No, I’m going home and do some more art.’”
While wild animals, big chairs, and boots make up a hefty amount of his hodgepodge of hard work, he does dedicate his time to a higher power.
“I’m very Christian,” Kuper said. “I don’t get by a day when I’ll kiss the foot of one of my Jesus carvings. Right on, right on, you know.”
Passionate, peculiar, purposeful and positive are probably the perfect words to paint this preveyor of pine portrayals.
“Every day you wake up it’s a blessing, and life is like that,” Kuper said. “I mean the seventies feels to me like a couple weeks ago or you know a few years ago.”
If you happen to be heading to the piney woods of East Texas and have a wild hair to see some wild art, seeing Rick work his magic is well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.