Charles Stagg lives in a home he built for himself in the woods outside Vidor, Texas. A Klan stronghold near the Louisiana border, Vidor (pronounced "vy der") is also the ancestral home and namesake of the Hollywood film director King Vidor (pronounced "vee dor"), who filmed Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Like Howard Roark in that movie, Stagg has a vision and is willing to go it alone until it's recognized. For years he has been working on his house, a domed cathedral of sheet metal and stucco, populating its interior with amazing sculptural forms: giant tapering towers of neatly cut tree-limbs, that resemble at once DNA strands, curling ram's horns, and minimalist structures a la Tony Smith or Robert Smithson. (The photo to the right shows a couple of these structures he built outdoors; the inside of the dome has hundreds of them, some as tall as 20 feet) The late artist Italo Scanga, who introduced me to Stagg's work, described him as an "insider outsider." Stagg is East Coast educated and very aware of contemporary art movements but returned to the land his parents own to work in seclusion, in a high-ceilinged vault without electricity or running water. On the inner walls of the dome, dozens of bundles of cut limbs--raw material for the sculptures--hang from slings, meticulously sorted by size and length. The design of the sculptures is simple: Stagg crisscrosses four limbs at right angles, like the foundations of a log cabin, stacks another group of four on top of the first, and so on, until a tower is formed; the foursomes gradually diminish in size and eventually the tower comes to a point. He holds the structure together with four lengths of cable running vertically through the corners of the crossed limbs, threaded through holes cut in the wood. Gravity and various structural irregularities determine the towers' final shape. The picture below shows the house's exterior; in the background a tower stands by itself in the trees. The strands depicted in the detail above can be seen sticking out of the top of the tower.
UPDATE: Below is a more recent photo of Charles Stagg in his studio (inside the dome). The photographer is John Fulbright. More information can be found in the comments to this post.
Hi Tom, by photo on the right, do you mean the blurry one? Do you have any documentation on the inside of the house? How did you hear about this guy and this structure/home?
Yes, the blurry one (I moved it so it's actually to the right of the text). In the early '90s I moderated a panel discussion with Robert Colescott and Italo Scanga at the Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont. Stagg came to the panel and Scanga introduced us (he had been Stagg's teacher years before at a college in Pennsylvania, I forget which one). The next day we drove to Vidor to look at the property. We met Stagg's parents, who live(d?) in a small air-conditioned house near the road. Stagg's dwelling is about a ten minute walk through the pine woods behind the house. I noticed dirt mounds everywhere with perfect cylinders cut in them: Stagg explained that those were crawfish holes. I said I thought they lived in lakes or ponds or whatever, and he explained that they are land dwellers, and very territorial. "Sometimes they meet and fight to the death," he told me. Unfortunately I have no photos of the inside of the house. (The picture on this page Stagg gave me about a year later, when I ran into him again in Houston.) On the web, I found a videotape for sale that documents the house--it's Volume 14 of a TV series called "Rare Visions and Roadside Curiosities." Not sure I'm ready to drop 15 bucks on it, but I'm curious to see how the place looked a few years after I saw it. [Update: I can't find this tape on the web anymore. Stagg had a show of sculptures at Phyllis Kind Gallery in September '02, which I didn't find out about till a couple of months later.]
Charlie Stagg is a wonderful man. I have spent many hours in the house that is described here. To contact him, you can get hold of the art studio inc. in beaumont texas, the beaumont art league, or the art museum of southeast texas (beaumont texas). His work is absolutely wonderful, and if you haven't seen what he's doing lately, you're missing out. His work is interactive to some degree, and is ever changing. His work is reasonably priced, and is fantastic to view. I own several pieces, they are a wonderful addition to my home, and i will collect more. Give it a try. And actually the house has changed drastically since the photos above were taken, it is a wonderful spiritual place.
i just found this on the internet i am proud to have known you have we gotten old or what
i sure would like to know when charles has a showing irene
Thanks for your interest, but this isn't Charles Stagg's web page! To contact him, the "anonymous" post above recommends getting in touch with "the art studio inc. in beaumont texas, the beaumont art league, or the art museum of southeast texas (beaumont texas)."
Charlie is now working to complete the top portion of the dome. He has health problems which have prevented him from working on the structure over the last year or so, but has continued his sculptural work and painting. If you would like reach him you may contact me through my website www.johnfulbright.com. We are friends and I rep him as much as possible. He is also featured in the book Xtreme Interiors found on Amazon.com. BTW, The Art Studio's website address is www.artstudio.org.
Thanks for the info. I came through Texas in late Aug.-early Sept. and emailed (and later tried to contact you through the museum) but missed you.
I'm posting one of your images of Charles in the studio (with your permission, I hope), up in the main post. Very dynamic photo!
I happened across this site while searching Charles Stagg's name. I am proud to know this wonderful man. I have dedicated a small portion of my website to his art and life. There are many photographs of the interior and exterior of the A. V. Stagg Art and Wildlife Preserve (the compound you described) I would be more than happy to help anyone genuinely interested in his life or work get in touch with him. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or the link to the dedication to him on my site is http://groups.msn.com/TheEmpireWithNewClothes/worldaccordingtostagg.msnw . His work and life are truly inspiring.
Thanks, but your site requires a Microsoft Network passport and/or password to access. I'd prefer not to sign up for it if I don't have to.
As others have done, I frequently search the web by typing in Charles Stagg's name. I hold a personal interest in this man. I do not do this for any other reason than to see how his lifes work has effected those who have experience it. I know his existance has effected me deeply...for if he would have never been .....neither would have I.
Here are some recent photos at Charlie's place...taken 1-14-05. His health is better...I'll spare you the details.
Just wanted to comment that another web site has put up a page with about 30 pictures of Charlie's studio. the site name is
Thanks. This (from the 3rd Stagg gallery on that site) is how I remember the studio looking 15 years ago. I like the sculptures unpainted like this:
I live close to Charlie Stagg. We went to church when my husband was a child. His precious mother, Audrey took care of my two daughters in the church nursery. My children loved Audrey and Audrey must have loved Charlie, as he has a very sweet and forthcoming and ingenuous disposition. It is hard to learn from him and not fall in love with him. I am 59 and have been married for 39 years.
That's awful! Sorry to hear that. Give Charles my best, and keep us posted on how he's doing.
A Charles Stagg web page with photos (including the sad aftermath of the fire).
I was wondering if Mr. Stagg has children. I hope he is doing well. We enjoy his work and your place on the internet. Thanks