Inspired by the Outsider movement, Stephen Wright has turned his home in East Dulwich into the most surreal living experience imaginable. I can honestly say that I wasn’t prepared for the stunning visual cacophony of color, art, and mayhem.
Stephen picks up everyday items others have discarded at flea markets and takes them home to call them ‘family’. From dolls run over by cars, to wall and floor mosaics, every fragment, each item depicts a fleeting moment in Stephen’s personal story of love, life, and death.
As we sit in Stephen’s garden talking over his life, he opens up his whole world to share with us.
“I don’t need to know why I’m doing things. Other people ask me things – I can’t answer. That’s the goal, to go back to child.”
Stephen’s house is pure magic. Stephen and his previous partner Donald watched a program called Journey’s to the Outside—all about Outsider artists. They were blown away by the environments and the honesty of their work. Stephen had sold his stationary business, Donald was a costumer designer, and they decided to take trip over to France to visit environments being built by Outsider artists.
Outsider here applies to those, usually untrained, who are compelled to create art outside of the mainstream. As someone who has felt a bit like an outsider his whole life, Stephen immediately found an artistic family and movement of which he’s now a part of.
‘The House of Dreams’ began to take on another role as time went on—therapy. Stephen lost his partner, Donald, and his parents all passed away in a span of eighteen months. In wandering around the house one can see a stark contrast of life and death, but Stephen doesn’t quite look at it that way. In fact, Stephen is reticent to analyze the house at all. Stephen works based off an instinct, and analyzing would be a betrayal of that. In the early days of the house it was much more of a decorative endeavor
“Certainly the sculptures and some of the artwork that I make—those characters exit somewhere else, and they want to be made real in this world. So that’s what I do, I make them. They come to me, they come through me.”
When asked what the future holds, Stephen is first to point out that he does take the future one day at a time—but he does see change potentially coming to the house. He has been working on a new book with his partner Michael that is a costume book about alter egos, a project headed in a new direction.
He may not know if he wants to move forward with the ‘House of Dreams’ in the same way as before, but his urge to create and explore parts of his life and experience is far from depleted. With the costume book he his making characters and bringing them to life through himself, as he has done with with the house of dreams. It’s still honest and from the heart, child-like without being childish.