Mikael Kennedy’s work has been on my radar for years—long before I met him last spring at a gallery show in Nashville.
Through jobs with small heritage brands back in the South, I became familiar with the thoughtful work of the kind, ginger-headed photographer, whose art has become something of a modern touchstone for a lot of big players in the Americana fashion movement. Mikael has shot for buzzy-cool companies including Rogues Gallery, Ace Hotel, J.Crew, Filson, Partners & Spade, and Billy Reid (the day this posts, he’ll be photographing BR’s Spring/Summer collection on location in Brooklyn), and the moody, elegant photos he coaxes out of vintage Polaroid equipment have helped define the heritage fashion world’s visual aesthetic in the public eye.
So finally, when our mutual friend Susan introduced us, it felt very familiar, like a brother-from-another-mother situation. Turns out I love Mikael, the man, as much as I do Mikael, the artist. And, since arriving in NYC three weeks ago, I’ve become quite fond of Mikael, the antique rug dealer—the newest job title on his ever-expanding résumé.
Mikael’s fascination with floor coverings evolved out of his appreciation of texture and pattern, beauty he finds in the majestic and the mundane, inside and out. “I used to go to the Cloisters and just stand there for hours, looking at the tapestries,” he says. “At the Met, I’d look at all the old Hudson River landscape paintings. Then I’d go into the woods with a model and take pictures. It’s all texture and pattern to me. Textiles just became an extension of that.”
To Mikael, photos and textiles are both receptacles of history, representing the passage of time. “The Polaroids I exhibit in galleries have dirt smudges on them, fingerprints, traces of where they’ve been. They become art objects rather than photographs, relics of the moment. The first prayer rug I bought was over 100 years old. You could see where someone’s hands and knees had rested and worn through it. To hold in my hands the remnants of lives—both of the people who wove it and those who prayed or walked on it—was incredible.”
Mikael initially marketed his rugs via his popular Instagram feed; due to the overwhelming response, he sells to a dedicated e-mail list. Sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Liam Goslett ; Mikael Kennedy