Forest Kelley is an MFA candidate in Photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. Originally from Barre, Massachusetts, he received a BA in Social Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 2013, he was awarded a Graduate Studies research grant from the Rhode Island School of Design for his ongoing series, Michael.
Michael is a subjective investigation into the life of Forest’s uncle, a gay man and artist who was found dead at the base of a rock ledge in June 1985, just as AIDS was entering the gay male conscience. Michael’s presumed suicide occurred soon after the arrival of widely available HIV antibody tests, and just one month before actor Rock Hudson publicly acknowledged his battle with AIDS, an event that catalyzed a shift in public thinking around the mysterious disease.
Forest’s work is an endeavor to comprehend events and experiences lost to the past or augmented through oral history and myth making. In this project, he restages history in order to imagine the challenges, as well as moments of reprieve, for gay men living in rural Massachusetts prior to his uncle’s death. He combines ephemera, disparate symbolism, and cultural reference to emphasize difficulties that Michael faced while attempting to reconcile conflicting aspects of his identity.
This series of photographs, sculpture, and installation is a rumination on the questions that arise in the wake of untimely passing. Forest’s revisit of history speaks more to the desire to envision intangible events than to an attempt to document a constellation of facts. He engages in the staging of dreams and speculative experiences, as well as the reenactment of memories, known events, and parallel histories.
To see more of Forest’s work, visit his website here.