The Accidental Artist

By Beacon Staff

COLUMBIA FALLS – Edd Kuropat is a lot like the wood and glass he uses in his art – they both started out with one purpose and now they’re being carved into something totally different.

That’s because Kuropat, 60, never meant to be an artist. Just 18 months ago, he didn’t consider himself one. But this month he has two gallery openings in Kalispell and Whitefish.

“This is all new,” he said in his studio north of Columbia Falls. “I’ve never had an art degree or took an art class.”

For the last year and a half, Kuropat has been making wood and stained glass sculptures that reflect the stunning landscape that surrounds him. Even though he’s a new face in Montana’s art scene, his work shows a depth of experience. That’s because Kuropat has been working with wood for more than 25 years, as a professional carpenter and contractor.

Originally from California, Kuropat moved to Montana in the 1970s and lived in a cabin up the Yaak River with his wife. In the 1980s, they moved to Whitefish and then Columbia Falls, where Kuropat worked construction and built cabinets and benches on the side. He has always preferred to use reclaimed wood.

“I try to focus on using recycled wood and materials as much as possible, because it’s always available on old work sites,” he said.

Last year, Kuropat became an artist almost on accident. While recovering from a work-related shoulder injury, he was looking for something to do to stay busy. He started making wood and glass sculptures. In a year and a half, he has completed more than 20.

Many of Kuropat’s pieces start with an old window frame. Inside of that, he uses wood and glass to create landscapes, mostly inspired by what he sees in Glacier National Park or up the Yaak. One piece can take upwards of 50 hours to complete.

“I like doing the landscapes because it’s what we see everyday and it’s very inspiring,” he said. “Glacier National Park has an endless bounty of landscapes to work with.”

A glass and wood piece by Edd Kuropat sits in his livingroom and shows a scene from the eastside of Glacier National Park. – Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Because a lot of the wood Kuropat uses is reclaimed, it has a weathered and earthy look. It is used to represent the ground in many of his pieces, while the see-through stained glass is used to represent the sky. When hung-up in a window or in front of a light, the entire scene comes to life. Kuropat often spends hours just trying to figure out what pieces to put where. He said unlike paint, which can be replaced or covered, his material is much less forgiving.

“If the glass breaks, that changes everything,” he said. “But I walk away and look at it again and maybe it was meant to be for that piece of glass to break.”

Although he’s been a craftsman for most of his life, Kuropat says the art community is very different.

“In the art world you’ve got to express yourself and open up,” he said. “People want to know how and why you do it.”

Some of Kuropat’s work will be on display at Gallery 131 at Flathead High School in Kalispell from May 6 to May 10. There will be an artist’s reception on Thursday, May 9 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Kuropat is also the featured artist of the month at the Purple Pomegranate in downtown Whitefish.

For more information about Kuropat and his art, visit www.yaakriveroriginals.com or visit his page on Facebook.

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