Sculptor, Actor and Photographer
Kevin VanHentenryck was born May 28th 1953 in Ferndale Michigan. Throughout High School, VanHentenryck also raced motorcycles off the road in both Enduros, and Observed Field Trials. While attending the Academy of Dramatic Arts at Oakland University in Michigan, he suffered a crash while practicing, breaking both ankles and his jaw, resulting in a thirteen-month recuperation. When mostly recovered, he moved to NYC to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Art. While there, he saw The Savage Messiah, a film by Ken Russell, at the Little Carnegie Cinema. Of that life-changing experience, he says:
“During the course of the film they showed a close-up of a real sculptors hands working a block of marble with a hammer and chisel. I was so turned on to, and by the idea of a rock as a plastic medium. I started haunting The Sculpture House, a sculpture supply place literally around the corner from the Academy. When I had worked up my nerve sufficiently and saved up what I hoped was enough money, I went in and pestered some poor sales girl with every question about stone carving I could think of and walked out with a small square hammer, and three basic chisels. I went and found a rock on the street in the East Village, and I set up a work bench underneath what is now known as the Highline, an elevated railroad line at eleventh Ave. and thirtieth street. In those days, it was an abandoned area on the weekends. The first moment I touched steel-to- stone the most amazing thing happened. You could call it an epiphany, or a revelation… an absolute understanding that THIS was what I was meant to do; that there were angles circling around my head guiding my hands. That moment has powered my whole life to this day.”
Within a short time, VanHentenryck switched his primary focus from acting to sculpture in natural stone. Even taking a job in the book dept. of the Met so he could spend every lunch break studying sculpture. Also around this time (1978), he rented a loft in the then abandoned neighborhood of Tribecca, at 151 Hudson Street, across from the Holland tunnel exit, which became his studio. Then in an interesting reversal, Ilze, whom he had met at the Academy, introduced him to Frank Henenlotter, an independent film maker, who offered VanHentenryck the starring role in his film, Basket Case. Low budget and campy, Basket Case won the Best Picture Award at the International Drive-In Movie Awards, and has over the years become a cult classic, and in 2018 was restored by and included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in NYC.
VanHentenryck has appeared at horror movie conventions and film festivals world-wide for fans of the film. After four years in Tribecca, the writing was on the wall. SoHo, the next neighborhood north of Tribecca had been discovered. Loft-living was becoming trendy. Robert De Niro moved into a loft a few blocks south of VanHentenryck’s studio. The lawyers and yuppies were moving in, rents were going up, and in spite of winning a major lawsuit against his loft lord, he realized his days in Tribecca were drawing to a close. In 1984 he relocated his studio to the mountain top region of the Catskill mountains where he remains to this day producing the finest sculpture and hand-carved signs in the region.