What He Does: Next time you see a homeless person on the side of the road and think he's just a drunk that will never amount to anything, I want you to remember the name Lee Wright. By the age of 19 he was homeless, succumbing to alcoholism on the streets, and ended up spending almost a month in jail for traffic warrants. From the age of 13 on his mother was honestly convinced that he was the child of a demon, kept him secluded from the world, and allowed him no toys. What he did have was an incomplete collection of The World Book Encyclopedia, paper and a number of writing utensils. He spent most of his time reading about art and drawing the works of the masters he saw in the encyclopedia.
During his stint in jail Wright managed to kick the booze habit and turn his life around. Now he's a comfortable family man with a wife and small daughter, as well as a rising name in local art. The best place to see his work is at Winter Street Studios where he keeps his studio space. His paintings have shown in small galleries around the Houston like East End Gallery and War'Hous, as well as some larger spaces on the East Coast and even as far away Colombia and Japan.
There's a terrible urban realism to his work. Children stare out through a weird hazy black-and-white film right into the heart of the viewer, and even his adult subjects look terribly vulnerable. It's uncomfortable art precisely because it isn't aiming to be so. What you see is a snapshot of a very odd trip through life, and Wright is clearly a fount of exceptional artistic drama. It's like a Social Distortion song come to life.
Why He Likes It: "Most people would say it's the freedom they like the most...but not me, my boss (me) is kind of surly and very demanding. I would say the best part of being an artist is wearing shorts to work."
What Inspires Him: "I see beauty and intrigue in just about everything I lay eyes on, from the sweet forgiving innocence of a child to the stories spelled out on the homeless man's face. It all inspires me and makes me want to share my wonderment of these things with the world.
"Influence on my work is frequently changing, right now I am inspired by the techniques used by many contemporary artists and I'm trying to break their code so I can make myself and my art better. Some of these people are David Jon Kassan, Brad Kunkle, and Jeremy Geddes as well as a few select local Houston artists. The best part about looking toward artists that are alive is that if I have a question or need direction I can ask them and they typically answer. You can't do that with Rembrandt or any other dead artist.
"This may sound odd but my personal hero is Mike Tyson. Sure, the guy has had some huge ups and downs while in the spotlight but if you read his story this is a man who has overcome challenges in his life that would make most people attempt suicide. He has come from the dirtiest gutter to the top of Mt. Everest...he's actually very inspiring."
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If Not This, Then What: Wright has actually been a stock broker for some of the largest financial institutions in the world, and he hated every second. Art and his family are the only things that truly drive him any more. There's nothing else.
If Not Here, Then Where: He's traveled from Pennsylvania to California in his time, but something always draws him back to Houston. It's his home.
What's Next: "Art, art, and more art."
More Creatives for 2013 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page). Vic Shuttee, comedy writer and performer Robin Davidson, poet and translator Jessica Wilbanks, essayist and Pushcart Prize winner David DeHoyos, astronaut photographer Sophie Jordan, bestselling book author Jessi Jordan, comic artist, beekeeper and yeti enthusiast Patrick Peters, architect and professor Jamie Kinosian, visual artist Paris F. Jomadiao, mixed-media artist and stop motion animator Shanon Adams, dancer James Glassman, Houstorian historian and artist Lou Vest, photographer Sara Gaston, stage and screen star Rachael Pavlik, a writer mom Ana Villaronga-Roman, Katy Contemporary Arts Museum director Erin Wasmund, actor, singer and dancer Karim Al-Zand, composer Jan Burandt, paper conservator for The Menil Collection Deke Anderson, actor Craig Cohen, hockey fan and host of Houston Matters Mauro Luna, Poe-Inspired photographer Trond Saeverud, Galveston Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor Khrystyna Balushka, paper flower child Christina Carfora, visual artist and world traveler Sara Kumar, artistic director for Shunya Theatre Kiki Maroon, burlesque clown Gin Martini, fashion designer Lacey Crawford, painter and sculptor Homer Starkey, novelist Jenn Fox, mixed media Shohei Iwahama, dancer Erica DelGardo, metalsmith Bob Clark, executive director Houston Family Arts Center Kerrelyn Sparks, bestselling romance author Lindsay Halpin, punk rock mad hatter Drake Simpson, actor Shelby Carter, Playboy model turned photographer David Matranga, actor Crystal Belcher, pole dancer Daniel Kramer, photographer Blue 130, pin-up explosion art Nina Godiwalla, author and TED speaker David Wilhem, light painter Tom Abrahams, author and newscaster Browncoat, pin-up pop artist Kris Becker, Nu-Classical composer and pianist Vincent Fink, science fashion Stephanie Saint Sanchez, Senorita Cinema founder Ned Gayle, thrift store painting defacer Sameera Faridi, fashion designer Greg Ruhe, The Human Puppet Sophia L. Torres, founder and co-artistic director of Psophonia Dance Company Maggie Lasher, dance professor and artistic director Jordan Jaffe, founder of Black Lab Theatre Outspoken Bean, performance poet Barry Moore, architect Josh Montoute, mobile gaming specialist Ty Doran, young actor Gwen Zepeda, Houston's first Poet Laureate Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston Ballet Justin Garcia, artist Buck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera Center Patrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer Danielle Burns, art curator Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker Amanda Stevens, scary book author Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger Ana MarÃa Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach Billy D. Washington, comedian Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer Kelly Sears, animator and film maker Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director jhon r. stronks,dance-maker Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer