Today we’d like to introduce you to Paul S. Wilson.
Paul S, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I was born and raised in Phoenix, and as a child, I was fascinated with famous shipwrecks, haunted houses and decay, and most any parody on “The Carol Burnett Show” that dealt with pop culture (movie spoofs, satires of popular commercials). I mention those specifically because they are still very much in my range of interests today, and I reconcile with them all in varying levels via my own methods, much as I did as a tot, toddler, and teen. Now, as an Adult Toddler, I can still revel in them, and so many other things (had there been the sheer VOLUME and variety of styles of fake rubber roaches available today online when I was seven life would have been really something, but, better late than never. Buying these toys now to incorporate in current art projects keeps me young…)
My focus throughout my schooling was in drawing and painting, and after graduating with a BA in Studio Art I fell into scenic painting for the theater, and for years since have been painting murals and stage scenery or custom faux finishes big AND small, as many have told me I tend to “take my work home with me,” whether it’s to fabricate a Barbie-size diorama of a 1950’s insurance office or apply life-size faux flagstone to my living room walls to compliment my garish mid-century decor of which I am also a serious fan.
I have always been one to want to “live” my art, in whatever form that takes. Hence, when as a child I begged my parents to drag me to see “The Poseidon Adventure” at age eight, I have forever been taken with re-creating it, always in a humorous form, and in early years getting friends to dress up in tuxedos and gowns and “capsize” with me in a space designated for such staged chaos. This was but one way I could “experience” the film (and survive). In decades past I have done so many homages to it in which I plant myself directly, either as an actor in a cheap VHS remake or as a 12″ doll of myself in a diorama of the doomed liner’s canting dining room that I have lost track! And so, this sets the tone for much of what I do: if I am obsessed with it, I must make it my own and “live it.” The American 1950’s, as seen in mom’s old Better Homes & Gardens magazines (circa the 1990’s): “I must have my house like that. I must have those lamps, those dishes, drive that car.”
Eventually it all comes together and I produce a huge body of work in which I am “living” the 1950’s in faux family-album “snapshots,” wearing the actual vintage clothes, dressed as different characters, male and female, and creating a final product in the form of a seamless, fake Family Photo Album of all my (pre photo-shop) pasted up “candid’s” of my selves reveling in the past. 2007: Lee Harvey Oswald, he was cute, and more and more believe today he was innocent, nonetheless, how can I experience him: Well, since he is not as tangible as some other things, I had to get very creative. Dolls of him, dioramas for him, dolls of me, creating a whole new life for him void of tragedy but filled with good, as I see it. Document our back-in-time life together by conceiving images of Lee and myself as acquaintances, bizarre as that may be, because how else am I going to do it? These are but a couple examples, but the gist is the same: if I like it, most likely I want to celebrate it. Thus, with art – be it video, film, canvas, or models and digitally manipulated photos – I am allowed to do this. A catharsis of sorts, and if it entertains others, well, great! And, I find it snowballs upon itself – no sooner have I finished a Poseidon spoof to satisfy that itch, but now I have set it in the 1950’s and added myself and Oswald to it for a new take – it simply doesn’t stop…
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
What I create are responses to these interests, ones in which I am usually throwing myself into it and “reckoning” with whatever it is that intrigues me by making it, being it, faking it, or whatever artistic means it takes to come to terms with my fascination. By default, my own humorous spin always occurs on whatever it is I am exploring, which I do to indulge myself but also in hopes that it might amuse the viewer. Some of the pop-culture chords that strike me resonate with others. A prime example would be my aforementioned obsession with the 1972 disaster movie “The Poseidon Adventure”- for years I had used performance art as a way of sating my delight with it, in the form of capsizing parties in which my peers and I would find a space, decorate it accordingly and budget allowing, re-enact the scene from the film (often at midnight, on New Year’s, just like in the movie). There were drawings and paintings sprinkled through the years, custom-made action figures of the cast and set to match, but it culminated and became a “wrap” when, in the 1990’s, I spent seven years filming a detailed remake, only, I was playing all the characters. Full makeup and costume. I did all the sets one by one in my garage and shot and edited the entire thing. Long story short, when completed in 2003, I “LIVED” “The Poseidon Adventure,” now re-titled “The Purseidon Adventure,” because in my version the ship is hit not by a tidal wave, but by a gigantic woman’s handbag (yes, I am really into vintage purses, too, so, it just, made sense at the time).
Another example, a years-long foray into the 1950’s allowed me to “live” the era, by creating a fictional 1950’s family, and shooting hundreds of self-portraits dressed as the mother, the father, the kids, using period props and vintage clothing, not to mention the house, which was entirely decorated in the era as well. A bit extreme but it was all about immersion. In the end, I had a vast series of “family photos,” complete with a narrative story and subtext that went with every faux vacation snapshot, prom portrait, or family Christmas. I was literally cutting and pasting the photos together so I could have “the whole family” (my selves) together in the images. At the time I completed it (late 1990’s) it seemed such a triumph, with the effort I went to, now anyone seeing them would say “Oh, Photoshop? Which program?”
Which brings me to the current day and venturing into the digital world quite a bit more to explore my relationship with Lee Oswald (2007-current). Subject matter a little edgier than the Fabulous Fifties or fictional upside-down ocean liners, but it’s all about how the subject is treated – or not. When I “discovered” Lee in detail upon finally giving in to high-speed internet and doing image searches, I was moved by how many different photos there are, and how many expressions are captured. I opted to reckon with him in a way that was sympathetic, gently humorous, and sincere – separating him from what “they” all say, giving him his much-warranted Benefit of the Doubt, and making him my own, and focusing on both actual positive truths about him as well as attributing my own, such that people could view him in a different light. My agenda has never been political, nor meant to “shock.” He has since become a positive force and the journey still introduces me to new information and new people that knew him, such that I am able to glean a sense of the real Lee and mesh it with what I would like for him to be (a teen idol, a dreamy preppy pop star, a spaceman, a sprite) and give the man a new life he never otherwise would have had. Much of doing this involves digital painting, as far as pasting actual old photos of Lee into my own environments or onto other bodies, and creating scenarios the best I can without the aid of complex computer programs.
The much more familiar hands-on aspects of Realizing Lee came with the creation of dozens of action figures, all of Oswald, some with varying facial expressions, and in turn, much like a Ken doll, ALL the accessories he would need as a little man – cars, a Dreamhouse or two or three, a wardrobe (NO guns). These dolls (including a doll or two of myself) would be woven into light short video adventures, as well as extensive photography with miniatures. As years progressed there came to be a few life-size ones as well as a plethora of other mascots realized in larger-than-life scale, now occupying my dwelling (Wile E. Coyote, Nick Wilde from “Zootopia,” a token Marilyn Monroe, some random aliens) in harmonious gaiety. My message, particularly to those who really do stumble into it with no premonition (cable repairmen, the exterminator, guests friends bring by) is in many ways to say “See? Look, it’s all weird and seemingly unrelated, but it can be fun, nostalgic, provocative; there is something here which will strike SOME particular chord with any of you, and hopefully a good one.” I tend to find that because my intent is genuine, recipients do in turn feel that sincerity and can at least appreciate if not embrace it at least a little.
How can artists connect with other artists?
Aside from an awkward hello at a crowded opening, online is a great way of connecting with other artists, in fact almost better because one can hone in on artists working with similar concepts or similar media. I have met many, from other people who make custom dolls to photographers to illustrators and set painters via Flickr and Deviantart, and I am sure there are other sites as well. Share your work on YouTube! Depending on what you do, laying out a painting or assembling a busy still life can be fascinating to watch, and you will get comments and possibly make connections with like-minded souls.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I do not have a website per se; however, I post quite a bit on art and photo sharing sites. I would like to think there is a little something for everybody there. I find these two sites are easily Google-searched using my User Name and the site name:
Roaches&Filth+Flickr and OswaldwasCute + Deviantart. I’ve also a ridiculous YouTube channel featuring a lot of my doll skits and the massive Poseidon Adventure Parody. My channel name is simply CrashingCrockery. The latter of the two photo sharing sites, Deviantart, contains the most ‘deviations/variations’ I suspect.
All images courtesy the artist.