Bob Wade (artist)

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Wade with HOG sculpture

Bob "Daddy-O" Wade (born 1943) is an artist in Austin, Texas who helped shape the 1970s Texas Cosmic Cowboy counterculture. A retrospective of his work was exhibited at the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture in the fall of 2009.[1][2] He is best known for his creating oversized sculptures of Texas symbols and for experimenting with hand-tinting black-and-white vintage photographs transferred to large photo-emulsion canvases. His 40-foot-long (12 m) giant iguana, knowns as "Iggy", sat on top of the Lone Star Cafe in New York City from 1978 to 1989[3].

Early life[edit]

Son of a hotel manager, Wade grew up in several Texas cities. This early hotel life contributed to Wade's interests in the American road and highway kitsch. During high school in El Paso, Wade joined a car club and would go south of the border to Juarez to enlist skilled technicians to customize his hot rod. Moving to Austin, Wade studied art at the University of Texas from 1961 to 1965. His slicked back hair, ’51 Ford hot rod and El Paso style earned him the nickname of “Daddy-O”. In addition to his formal studies, Wade learned from the example of several Austin artists, like William Lester, Robert Levers, Everett Spruce, and Charles Umlauf.[1] Upon graduation from UT, Wade earned a Masters in painting at the University of California at Berkeley. There the artist connected his border sensibilities to the developing “funk art” pioneered by Bay Area curator and art historian Peter Seltz.[1]

College professor to Texas funk[edit]

Following his time in Berkeley, Wade returned to his home state to make art and teach in Waco, Dallas, and Denton, successively. Wade helped create a small art community in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas with artists, George Green, Jim Roch, and Jack Mims. They became known as the Oak Cliff Four. Together they booked gallery shows and a group show at the Tyler Museum. In 1971, Dave Hickey’s South Texas Sweet Funk exhibition at Austin’s St. Edwards University catalyzed the art scene developing out of the Texas counterculture, bringing the Oak Cliff Four together with Jim Franklin, Gilbert Shelton, Luis Jiménez, and others.[1] Wade soon turned to a new process with his work in photo-emulsion canvases, which quickly drew attention in the larger art world. One piece, ‘Gettin’ It on Near Cedar Hill’, a depiction of two heifers in a rather indelicate position, appeared in Art Forum in 1971, the work reviewed by Robert Pincus-Witten. Continuing this technique, Wade transferred vintage and Texas themed photos to photo-emulsion canvases on a large scale and applied color. These works include photos such as Mexican revolutionaries, a cowboy band, Texas boys and their guns, Yaquis, and his most well known, the 10' wide canvas, ‘Cowgirls on Harleys’.

Wade’s teaching career ended in 1977 when he turned his full attention to making his art. In 1979 Wade began a series of canvases that would expand this technique. Wade decided to enlarge a 1922 postcard of cowgirls onto a photo emulsion canvas and hand-tint it in vivid colors. This accentuated the details in the women's faces and clothes. This was Wade’s tribute to the American cowgirl, a subject that entered a revival about that time.[4] A book of these works, Cowgirls, was published in 1995.

Ambassador of Texas culture[edit]

Wade served as an art ambassador, serving up Texas culture for art audiences nationally and internationally. In 1976 Wade returned to the Bay Area to recreate a Texas honky-tonk in the midst of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, cantilevered a taxidermied rodeo horse to a wall in the Tex-Lax exhibition at Cal State-Los Angeles, and turned the Lone Star state itself into a roadside attraction for the French with his Texas Mobile Home Museum in the Paris Biennalle of 1977. A 1976 documentary by Kenneth Harrison, 'Jackelope', focused on Wade, George Green, and James Surls. In the documentary Wade goes on a road trip across the state collecting materials for a display of Texas culture in a New York art museum.[4] Another documentary on Bob Wade's career, "Too High, Too Long and Too Wide," is by New York filmmaker Karen Dinitz and features his road trip across Texas in his Iguanamobile.[5]

Recent times[edit]

Bob Wade continues to produce his unique art. An example is his 2006 ‘Kinky Mobile’, a small tear drop trailer with a cowboy hat on top and a 3’ cigar sticking out the front, coinciding with Kinky Friedman’s run for Texas governor. Wade celebrated the installation of his iconic Iguana at the Fort Worth Zoo in June 2010, documented in these photos.[3] Wade currently lives and works in Austin, Texas.[6] Wade's work can be found at The Grove, a public art program at Waterside, in Fort Worth. Installed in 2016, this outdoor sculpture celebrates the area's history and is made from re-purposed amusement rides and playground equipment.[7]

Public art[edit]

Wade's public art can be found mainly in Texas. The following is a partial list.

  • Funny Farm Family - Located at the Art Center, 1300 College Dr., McLennan Community College, Waco, Texas. A number of colorful bomb casings and steel.[8]
  • Dancing Frogs, exit 374, I-35 East, Carl's Corner, Texas, north of Hillsboro, Texas. The six frogs were originally created for the Tango nightclub in Dallas. After the club closed three of the frogs were sold to Chuy's in Houston and three stand outside the Carl's Corner gas station.[8]
  • Dinosaur Bob, National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, 102 Cedar St., Abilene, Texas. The sculpture is a rendition of the children's book character. The dinosaur has Volkswagen beetle in its mouth.[8]
  • Giant Prickly Pear Cactus, roof of Leal's Mexican Restaurant, 1010 W. American Blvd., Muleshoe, Texas.[8]
  • World's Largest Cowboy Boots, North Star Mall, Loop 410 at San Pedro, San Antonio, Texas. The 40-foot-tall (12 m) boots were originally installed near the White House in Washington D.C.[8]
  • Junkyard Dog, Alamo City Inc., 1201 Somerset Rd., San Antonio, Texas. The base for the dog is a 1966 Plymouth Fury standing on end.[8]
  • Giant Sixshooter, Humphreys Gun Shop, 124 E. Garfield Ave., Del Rio, The sixshooter is made of a barrel, stove pipe, and stucco. The gun shop covered the costs and uses the sculpture in its Internet ads.[8]
  • Smokesax, Billy Blues, 6025 Richmond Ave., Houston. The saxophone is constructed from a Volkswagen body, oil field pipe, and a surfboard for the mouthpiece.
  • El Salsero atop La Salsa restaurant, 22800 West Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, California. Wade transformed a 1950s giant fiberglass Muffler Man who held a giant hamburger into La Salsa Man, when the restaurant below became La Salsa in 1987. A mustache was added and a sombrero was fashioned out of the top hamburger bun. A serape was attached to his shoulder and his boots were painted to look like huarache sandals. The bottom bun became a platter holding a beer bottle and some Mexican food.[9]
  • Lone Star Cafe Iguana A 40-foot-long (12 m), 12-foot-high (3.7 m) iguana that topped the roof of the Lone Star Cafe in New York City from 1978 to 1989.[10] It was acquired by the Fort Worth Zoo and installed on the roof of their animal hospital in June 2010.[11]

Other works include giant armadillos, dancing frogs, urethane-foamed World’s Biggest Cowboy Boots originally installed near the White House, a 70-foot-tall (21 m) saxophone and a New Orleans Saints helmet created from a Volkswagen beetle, currently atop the Shoal Creek Saloon in Austin, Texas.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Wade has received three National Endowment of the Arts grants and has been included in Biennial exhibitions in Paris and in New Orleans. His work has been part of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and in the collections of the Houston Museum of Art, the Austin Museum of Art, the Chase Manhattan Bank, the Menil Collection, and AT&T. Wade was dubbed a "pioneer of Texas Funk and connoisseur of Southwestern kitsch," by the Fort Worth Star Telegram.[5]


  • Cowgirls, Layton, Utah, Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1995. Experimentation with color enhancement of black and white vintage photographs.
  • Ridin’ and Wreckin’, Salt Lake City, Gibbs Smith, 1996. Hand-tinted photos of rodeo riders from 1910 through the 1930s.
  • Daddy-O: Iguana Heads & Texas Tales, St. Martin's Press, 1995, ISBN 0-312-13459-2



  1. ^ a b c d SouthPop SouthPop
  2. ^ Bob Wade: 40 Years of Blood, Sweat and Beers; catalog of South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, 'Jason Dean Mellard’, retrieved 10-16-09
  3. ^ a b c Brick, Michael (13 June 2010). "Attack of the 40-Foot Iguana!". New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
  4. ^ a b [1] American West,'La rivista American West', translated from Italian, retrieved 12/24/2009
  5. ^ a b [2] ‘William Campbell Contemporary Art’, retrieved 12/24/2009
  6. ^ [3] Archived 2010-04-12 at the Wayback Machine. Cosmic Cowboys, Armadillos, and Outlaws: The Cultural Politics of Texas Identity in the 1970s," Jason Dean Mellard; American Studies. May 2009.
  7. ^ Robert Francis (2016-11-01). "Waterside project officially opens in southwest Fort Worth". Fort Worth Business Press. Retrieved 2016-11-24.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Austin Chronicle 'Day Trips' by Gerald E. McLeod, retrieved 01/02/2010.
  9. ^ California Mulffer Men, retrieved 01/02/2010
  10. ^ Texas Scapes 'Bob Wade' by Byron Browne. Retrieved 01/02/2010.
  11. ^ Kelso, John (2010-06-02). "Iguana airlift? You know Austin is involved". Austin American Statesman. |access-date= requires |url= (help)

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