The Kitschy King of Camp
Jamie Peachey

The Kitschy King of Camp

Paul Wilson's had more than a few obsessions in his day.

In fact, the über-eccentric artist's spent a lifetime indulging his endless manias for the past (particularly 1953-1963) and all things kitschy or campy.

Following his kooky muse since childhood, the 45-year-old Valley native has chronicled his ever-changing fixations through over-the-top endeavors that have become the stuff of legend amongst Phoenix art scenesters.


Paul Wilson

For example, Wilson's lifelong fanaticism for The Poseidon Adventure yielded a 1998 video spoof of the '70s disaster flick. Before that, it was painstakingly created photomontages, inserting himself into lighthearted '50s family snapshots. He'll plunge eagerly into new pastimes, but admits he eventually burns out.

Wilson's somewhat tired of his status as "the exclusive '50s guy," which is why his infamous house, once spotlessly appointed with mid-century furnishings, is now a disaster area of vintage party favors, after a retro New Year's Eve blowout in 2006.

"I decided I'm so tired of keeping up this '50s image that I'm leaving things this way and won't have to tidy up,'" he says.

Adding to his kitchen's mess are dozens of 12-inch action figures, illustrative of the reclusive artist's current hobby: meticulously creating pint-sized versions of himself and celebrities. After a "life-changing" cruise aboard Queen Mary II, he wanted more than "ordinary" travel photos.

Wilson started precisely re-enacting vacay situations in dioramas starring himself, his campy cross-dressing alter-ego Dottie, passengers, and crew members. It's like his job as a set designer/scenic painter for local theater companies, where Wilson customizes with furniture, props, and backgrounds.

In a way, he's still drawing from the past, having expanded to weird retellings of favorite movies (including Psycho, except with Norman Bates in a ball gown), bizarre situations, and "weird juxtapositions" from his vivid imagination. Snapshots are taken and e-mailed to friends and family. A recent series sees Dottie moving in with Lee Harvey Oswald and their African-American baby.

"It's not for sick purposes, but because before [Oswald] was arrested, he was kinda cute," Wilson says.

Wilson estimates he spends "plenty" but says it's worth it. He just wants to have fun.

Wilson says. "I'm content. I could die tomorrow and it'd be okay. Somebody would have a hell of a mess to clean up."


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