Photography

Born-Again Ward of the State, Dennis McGrath’s ‘Heaven’

By Owen Campbell on September 21, 2015

Dennis McGrath’s Heaven approaches the life of Lynwood “Lennie” Kirk, a former professional skateboarder, current born-again Christian and ward of the state of California.

Dennis McGrath’s Heaven approaches the life of Lynwood “Lennie” Kirk, a former professional skateboarder, current born-again Christian and ward of the state of California. Heaven is largely comprised of old photographs by Gary Van Degriek, Patrick O’Dell, Jonathan McGrath, Keith Hufnagel, Mike Blabac and McGrath himself. The images show a life of skating, touring, smoking blunts, hanging out. (I’d be surprised if Kirk was the only person in the 90’s San Francisco skate scene who later found Jesus.)

The incongruence of Christian iconography with the signs of skate culture makes for the most interesting visual element of the book, such as the photograph of Kirk smiling, his teeth covered with a gold grill bearing the letters “CRISTO” and in his hand a book, La Palabra de Dios. And then there are Kirk’s designs for Christian-themed skate-decks, which almost seem like a joke but are actually touching in their sincerity.

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In the first few pages of the book the images of him as a child elicit natural sympathy, but near the end of the book when you find out he’s currently in jail for kidnapping and domestic violence all prior affection seems deeply misplaced.

There are also scans of hand-written letters and court documents that provide most of the information about Kirk’s life. You find out Kirk is in jail early, in an excerpt of a handwritten letter. He doesn’t say why he’s there but the way he writes “my ex-girlfriend put me back in jail” gives you an idea. It’s hard to know how you’re supposed to feel about Kirk. In the first few pages of the book the images of him as a child elicit natural sympathy, but near the end of the book when you find out he’s currently in jail for kidnapping and domestic violence all prior affection seems deeply misplaced. It’s also strange, the book has an elegiac feel but Kirk is still alive although inaccessible, in more ways than one.

Heaven

Dennis McGrath

http://www.dennismcgrath.net/

(All rights reserved. Text @ Owen Campbell. Images @ Dennis McGrath.)

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