By Anvil and Spark: Hephaestus, God of the Forge
It's been one hell of a week. So much of a week that my brain locked up and I couldn't write this blog, this blog which would tell the story of community and collaboration, of artists working together to do what we do best: Make Art. My motivation to share this with you got choked out by stories filled with fear, with frustration, with unmitigated distress. Those stories deserved the spotlight. We all needed a chance to grieve, recenter, and make our positions painfully clear. These feelings aren't going anywhere. There's so much that needs to be done now...
I can't pretend that I think everything is going to be ok, because all evidence points to the fact that we're in for a long haul. We can't be silent, we can't sit still, we can't think that our future is secure.
But it never was. The reality that surrounds us at the moment is the result of decades of dismay, this is nothing new, we are waking up.
However, as we are waking up, as we are paying more attention to those around us who have been telling us to pay attention since long before I was born, the last thing we should do is stop doing the things that bring us joy. You can stand up for justice, and you can also play music. You can ally yourself with marginalized groups who want our help and assistance, and you can also paint. You can wear safety pins and black lives matter pins and pride flag pins and love trumps hate pins, and you can also take some incredible photographs.
Doing one does not preclude the other. In fact, doing BOTH is what's going to keep us on the side of sanity. We're playing a long game here, stand up for truth, but make some good f*cking art. If it's topical, wonderful, if not, do it anyway. It's feeding your soul. And if you're anything like me, your soul needs to be fed right now.
SOAP BOX OVER (for the moment)...
I've known Brett Kelley since 2013 when we met at RAW arts Boston showcase. The show itself was pretty much an utter fiasco, as was the organization, and the both of us joke that the best thing to come out of that nonsense was our meeting. Despite everything, it was totally worth it.
Brett is one of the best humans on this planet.
He's an artist, but that blanket term doesn't necessarily do what he does and who he is justice. He's the kind of person who one moment will bedazzle you with the most intense makeup/airbrush application, then share a mythological-inspired painting that will make your jaw hit the floor with its brilliance, and then before you know it, you've seen him release a steampunk-inspired coloring book that is one of the most remarkable things to come out in 2016. What's more, this is what a normal week looks like for him.
Did I mention he was impressive?
When I first mentioned to him that I was working on this photography project, he seemed wicked excited. He and I have collaborated on a couple of projects in the past, the first with Laurel Marsh in 2014 called The Shadow of a Life and the second this past January with Ember LaFuze. He figured that maybe I'd have him do something along those lines...so when I asked him if he wanted to be Hephaestus, at first he seemed a little unsure (because he is the busiest person on the planet), but eventually he warmed up to the idea.
I sent him this picture as inspiration, June of 2014.
I am beardless right now though. He replied.
That's ok, I said, it will be a little while before this can happen. (Little did I know it would be two years!)
"I want facial scars and bright eyes, soot across your forehead and a wily expression." I explained.
Several months later, I still had no idea about what to do for locations/set design. I was messing around the idea of making a paper maché, or foam and chicken wire, anvil of all things...and having a bonfire. I had no idea what to do. So I did what I usually do. I threw the idea out into the universe, and I waited.
Meanwhile, Brett's beard grew.
Things Come Together
I visited Salem Pioneer Village 1630the first time for the Hekate shoot last year. I casually mentioned to John Andrews, who was there with me, that I was in a desperate search for a blacksmithing shop or somewhere that had an anvil.
And he looked at me and said, "You know there's one here right?"
My ears dropped off my face.
I didn't need the chicken wire after all.
Fast forward to May of this year, Brett was having one of the busiest seasons to date (which for him, is saying a hell of a lot), and finding a weekend where both of us were available was proving tricky. We tried to do it Memorial Day weekend, no dice, then midsummer, nope. Then Pioneer Village was about to have their season, so we had to wait until after October.
November 5th! Brett said yes! Pioneer Village said yes! I couldn't have been more excited.
The Day of the Shoot
I woke up that morning in the most extreme of anxiety. I had been planning this for ages but things we're quite right yet. Yes we had access to the blacksmithing forge in a beautiful space, yes Brett was able to come, it was also a perfect day – mid 50s and sunny. Yet, I was uncertain about how things would go. I mean, I was about to shoot a scene a forge but wasn't going to be able to light a fire. I also didn't know if Retonica would be available for light magic, so the scenes would most likely be dark. I had an idea of what I wanted, but I had no idea if I would be able to pull it off.
So, I messaged John Andrews (Creative Salem to the rescue) saying HELP PLEASE! And, in typical John fashion, he said he was on it.
As it turns out, the son of the owner of the space is a hobbyist Blacksmith, and he was going to be on site to let us in and help us out! It was like a miracle had fallen out of the sky. Then, Retonica messaged me saying that yes! He had some time and could swing by to help! That genius makes EVERY SINGLE SPACE infinitely better. I just can't express to you the sheer gratitude of having him around.
Two hours before the shoot, everything I had wished for was becoming a reality. I ran through my apartment squealing in delight. My fiancé was convinced that I was possessed. I didn't care.
Happiness was all I felt.
Hephaestus - Brett Kelley of The Artwork of Brett Kelley
Makeup - Kristen Higgins <----- YESSSSSSS, She swooped in and made everything lovely.
LIGHT WIZARDRY - Retonica
BTS Video - Chimæric
CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO!
CHECK OUT THESE RAD PHOTOS BY JOHN ANDREWS PHOTOGRAPHY!
And without further ado, je vous presente Hephaestus. For hi-res, click here <--------
Lord of the Forge Fireworker and Metal-Shaper Carver and Crafter Father of Technology and Invention Consort to the Love Goddess Broken One Hephaestus Open the Way into Your Sacred Workshop Teach me the Paths of Hammer and Measure Guide my Hand in Both Creation and Repair By Anvil and Spark By Metal and Wood and Blade -Source Unknown
Thank you to Joey, John, Kristen, Kevin, Brett, Jason, and to Pioneer Village for again making me one of the happiest artists in the U.S. All of you are exemplary. <3