What is The Arcanum?
The Arcanum is a photo exhibit. The actual framed exhibit is 26 images, but I’ve created a complete deck of 52 playing cards to go along with the large formate images in the exhibit. I’ve printed a limited edition box set of the playing cards that can be purchased, as well as a limited edition set of scented candles. Balance Packaging did the printing and packaging with me and they did a stellar job.
Why did you create the project?
I created The Arcanum so that I could have a platform to put a unique level of purpose and meaning to my art while also creating an opportunity to showcase my hair, makeup, styling, photography, graphic design and packaging concepts.
How did you come up with the idea?
I have a friend who collects playing cards. He has so many different kinds of beautiful playing cards and tarot cards. I knew I wanted to do an exhibit but I didn’t want to do a typical book as a takeaway. I started doing a lot of research and it all just manifested from the idea that we can’t change the cards that life deals us. If I’m going to say that to people, then I need to inspire them to play their cards in life better. That’s when I decided to include quotes that have helped me in my life on each card.
You did the makeup, hair, styling and photography for the project. How does that much creative control effect your process?
Doing the hair, makeup and photography myself makes it possible for me to move quicker. I do have assistants on set with me and I create vision boards and shot lists to keep me on track. Everything is super pre-produced and very organized. I even put the products for each makeup look in ziplock bags so I don’t have to waste time digging in my kit. I move fast. I know exactly what I want to get from a look by the time I arrive to set.
How many models were involved in the shoot?
I chose eight models to participate in the shoots which took place over three days in New York at Dean Street Studios. One of the most amazing aspects of the models is that they are from all over the world. It was important to me to have a diverse group working on this project with me. They included four men to represent the four kings and four women to represent the four queens. The Kings are Remington Perregaux, Tarick Kaljanac, Conor Fay and Thomas Canestraro and the queens are Christina Makowski, Emma Summerton, Chanel Gray and Shelby Coleman. I’m so thankful to them for trusting me and for being a part of this.
What were some of your go to products for the shoot?
The makeup was all from MAC and included Amplified Lipstick, Pro Longwear Foundation, Studio Fix Perfecting Powder, Matte and Extra Dimension Eye Shadows, Upward Lash Mascara, Brow Set Gel, #4 Lash.
What kind of camera did you shoot with?
I shot on a medium format digital Hasselblad H3D 31. The lighting used was Profoto and interestingly enough the entire shoot was captured with only one main light that I bounced off 4’x 8′ flats. The software used was Phocus which is Hasselblad’s unique capture platform.
What was the most challenging aspect of putting the project together?
Definitely raising the money. It was an expensive project by the time you pay models, studio, equipment and printing. It adds up quickly.
The collection will be shown in gallery shows. What do you hope the experience is for someone walking through the exhibit?
My intention with this exhibit and overall experience is to get people to think — to be profound. It’s basically the theme I mentioned earlier, that we can’t change the cards that life deals us, but we can change the way we play them. When people come to this exhibit I want them to see, feel, hear, smell, learn and ultimately be inspired to be who they are — with no fear.
The project benefits the BE BRAVE BE YOU campaign. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Proceeds from the exhibit will go to my campaign to inspire bravery. The BE BRAVE BE YOU campaign is a place where artists create art that I then donate to different charities to auction off and raise money. A lot of artists don’t have a lot of money to donate. However, they can create art and that can generate money for all causes. I’m especially focused on helping mental health organizations.
What do you hope that people will take away, or feel, from this work?
We are born and raised to fight, fight, fight and win, win, win! That is not what life is about! It’s dehumanizing to think like that. Life isn’t about winning or losing, life is about doing the right thing. Life isn’t a game, Life is a gift. That is what I want people to take away from The Arcanum.
What’s next for Kevin Hees?
Our first exhibit of The Arcanum at Janssen Artspace in Palm Springs, October,18-20. I hope to do two Arcanum exhibits a year. I have a lot more to say.
Words Michael DeVellis
Photos Kevin Hees