Creatures of Metaphor

By Thomas Gardner

It was rather inevitable that Bilhenry (Walker) and I would meet; he and his wife had moved to Eau Claire, and he was very interested in a new arts collective I was involved with, the Artisan Forge Studios group, here in town. As it was, we crossed paths at an exhibition opening for a show at a local gallery. And one thing just led to the next. Bilhenry’s responsible for the nascent presence of the Sculpture Park at Artisan Forge Studios, the pieces in which fascinate me as a photographer to no end. As such, Bilhenry and I have developed a sort of serendipitous creative symbiosis, that suggests all manner of possible future collaborations. He and I are both creatures of metaphor.

One afternoon, a couple weeks back, Bilhenry brought in the models for his series “Homeboys Flying & Dying” and “Milwaukee Heist.” He showed the pieces to me, told me the stories behind them, and left them with me, asking if I might photograph them for him. And the next day I did. I couldn’t remember exactly how we’d intended them to be shot, but soon enough that didn’t seem to matter. The figures I shot assumed their own narratives, and I, marinating in the sounds and sights and smells of the story Bilhenry’d told me, simply took them down with my camera.

It was later on, after a week of tumult: Trump come to town, the election and the powerful pull of a full, super Moon in Taurus—the power of which cannot be discounted—that the collaborative images began to emerge. It was a feeling of falling, a loss of control, of looming darkness, and of an essential betrayal of decency. At least at first. And Bilhenry’s figures, with their “corpse-outline” shapes, primal absence and desolate origins leant themselves bleakly to these portrayals. The reality of how little some lives are valued. There are as well a mythological aspects/connections I could not help but drawing. Daedalus and Icarus in free fall…the dreamers tumbling down, The fallen. The lives lost and not counted—not counting.

I am a romantic, though. My operating ideals are peace and love, kindness and compassion, and acceptance. I believe in the sacred unity and dignity of all on this planet. And I believe as well in the redemptive, cathartic power of art. I remember well how I was struck, in ways that I could not then describe, by pieces like the Guernica. and the sound of a piper, for that matter. I refer to this series as my Post-Election Blues Set. The processing of it all, though, brings back another facet of the stories and mythologies of us all, and the proper emphasis, as I see it, of this collaboration. The cycle returns to points that are eternal and unavoidable: (in whatever order) awakening, redemption and resurrection.

Peace, to you and yours,

Tom Gardner

A bit of commentary on the images, if only titles:




The Falling Man

Cast Forth


The Thin Veil That Separates Us.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on November 25, 2016

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