All Aboard for Jesus
Written by Molly Norris—Art Access Magazine
Photographer Dave Kennedy's latest body of work portrays Jesus' Apostles as urban messengers en route to continue their missions. Via city bus. Covered in tats. Proselytizing with spray paint.
"I had read a brief story of Saint Peter that came with a painted depiction of him," says Kennedy, who is not evangelical himself, about the origins of his work; "After seeing the depiction I was curious to find out more about the painter and how the painter came into being. My search led me to find that many 15the to 16the century paintings of this kind were commissioned by the church. The next step found me wondering what I would create if I were commissioned to do so."
Setting the Apostles in the present makes a viewer realize that the original followers were regular guys. They probably would have rolled up the hems of their jeans like the models in these photographs. Saint Peter could have gazed out the bus windows and day dreamed. Saint Andrew would have been annoyed by the inane
cell phone conversations around hime. And I'm sure Judas would have worried about having the correct fare.
As in Kennedy's past work figures show up as multiples in the same frame. The artist has a fascination with doppelgängers, which gives his figures a solitary feeling in a crowd. These crowds-of-one recall physicist Julian Barbour's every moment is like a snapshot floating in space, where every moment that was and will
be occurs simultaneously.
I like the images where figures interact compassionately by touching or holding one another. It is literal
For example, in Kennedy's photograph of Thomas this Apostle stands and comforts his double of who wears an Ace bandage and holds to a handrail. Behind them three Thomases sit on a bench seat together checking out a Band-aid on the Apostle's side where a white tee shirt is tugged up. It is a sanitary and less sensual version of Caravaggio's "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas," where the open wound is fare game for probing fingers. But they didn't know about infection like we do today.
These Saint Thomases may have boarded the bus as doubters, yet they will de-board as believers.
Thank god Kennedy supplies cheat sheets because I was raised by two compassionate agnostics and suffer
a dearth of bible smarts. Where is the local bible scholar Emily Phothast when I need her? Probably performing with her band somewhere.
Many of the Apostles were fisherman by trade, a political occupation today. They all have 'patronage'—for instance Saint James' patronage includes equestrians, blacksmiths, and veterinarians. Kennedy shows James dressed like a southern rocker, covered withe a big fishing net on one seat and holding hobby horses on another.
Kennedy's twelve compositions, all 30 by 40 inches, Fuji crystal archival prints, were shot from inside a bus that the artist rented and parked in a hangar. The artist is rather like a movie director whose films condense into one still. He hires hair stylists, make-up artists, illustrators, assistants, and models—the logistics are staggering. One year is spent in pre-production, conceptualizing, and research. Another year included about
80 hours on set to photograph, and over 500 hours of post-production photo retouching and compositing.
But that is all the stuff we do not see.
"I first met Dave back when he was going to school and I thought, this guy has really got potential—and he hasn't let me down" says Kennedy's Seattle dealer Marni Muir. "Dave is serious and he's also perfectionist-plus. Everything he does has such a deep, edgy voice. He dares to speak the truth that other people don't want to hear. I think that he is beyond his time in many ways."
As an artist Kennedy reminds me of what writing teacher Brenda Ueland wrote about the Great Russian writers, that "...the important thing to them is what they felt, saw, and thought. Life is more important to
them than literature." Kennedy is a philosophical guy who lives fully in the physical world. He takes long
city hikes to relieve stress. He is 'deep' yet sweet, light hearted yet focused.
Keep an eye-for-an-eye out for him.
—Molly NorrisSaint Peter