Hey kiddies! This is the first part of my new project JACK THE RIPPER.
Conceived as a 2-panel diptych, JACK THE RIPPER depicts the moments “just before” and “just after” a grisly alleyway murder. What makes Jack the Ripper so compelling to me is that nothing is known about him. Because he was never caught, we have no actual information about who he was or why he committed his gruesome crimes. What we have is not a historical or biographical portrait, but a communally imagined idea of Jack the Ripper as an aristocratic predator. As a boogeyman, he graphically symbolizes the idea of the wealthy and powerful preying on the poor.
Unable to find an appropriate alleyway in Kansas City, I decided to build a set. The walls were made from large sheets of styrofoam that we carved and sculpted to look like brick using a hot-knife and heat gun.
My cousins Steve Hoffine and his brother Jerry Hoffine help run a Haunted House called 3rd Street Asylum in Bonner Springs, a small town just outside of Kansas City. They were kind enough to allow me to build my set inside an unused hallway in their Haunted House.
The part of Jack the Ripper was played by my friend Chad Hawks. With his heavy brow and swarthy good looks, I thought he would be the perfect model. And despite what he looks like in my photograph, Chad is one of the kindest, sweetest people you will ever meet. He grew out his own muttonchops for the role, and flew himself in from Chicago to help me with my project.
The part of Jack’s victim was played by Celine Collins. Celine is, in many ways, the real hero of this project. She owns Monkey Wrench Clothing, and I originally drafted her to help make the elaborate costumes that I needed. She was already doing all of this costume work for free when I asked her if she would be willing to play the part of the victim as well. Despite her shyness, Celine agreed, and gave me an absolutely marvelous performance. Monkey Wrench Clothing specializes in corsets and steam-punk attire and shares storefront space with Retro Vixen on 39th Street in Kansas City. You should definitely check her out.
Celine’s wig was styled by Ruby Von Blush. Her make-up, for good or ill, was done by me.
My regular assistant Demian Vela was back to help me with this photo-shoot, as was my beautiful and talented wife Jen Hoffine. She helped Celine add wire to Jack’s coat so that it would hold it’s position without the use of a windmachine.
Steve and Jerry Hoffine, as well as their friend Mike Clouse, came down on the night of the shoot to help run fog machines and spray atmospheric mist over my set. The rats were plastic toys that I repainted. I added whiskers made out of fishing line. And lastly, the all-important top hat was loaned to us by my super-talented friend Damian Blake, who had previously played the part of Thurber the patron in last year’s project PICKMAN’S MASTERPIECE.
On October 1st I will release the second half of my project: JACK THE RIPPER 2. It is by far the goriest image I have ever made. I hope you can check it out!
See you next time!