For more than half of a century, Kenny Goodman has decorated the hands of Fire Islander’s, each with their own handcrafted, original silver jewelry pieces that linger in the air of the island as
“Kenny’s.” The resident sculptor’s legacy is being honored with a documentary created by Melodie Rosen, a 24-year-old film graduate from Hamilton College, who has spent her summers in Seaview since she was 3 years old.
Rosen was inspired to create the film when the owner of the “Cartier of Fire Island,” as The New York Times named Goodman’s Ocean Beach shop in 2002, announced that he would be closing his doors after decades of leaving his mark on the island. “Goodman” will premiere on Sept. 6, at 5 p.m., on YouTube.
The film follows Goodman’s last open summer in 2017 from beginning to end, highlighting from June to September how he grew to forge a home on an island surrounded by sand and sun – two key components of Goodman’s least favorite environment.
According to a 2017 interview with this publication the Brooklyn born Kenny Goodman, while he loves the outdoors, he hates the beach. While spending the summer in Fair Harbor with his friends at 22 years old, he entered a pattern of creating wood carvings and jewelry with no prior experience. Goodman just “needed something to pass the time,” in what he feels to be the most creative setting.
The 20-minute documentary opens with what Goodman calls “the beginning” as he is shown intimately flipping through photo albums illustrating how his legacy began and formally ended, when he shows his last photo of the shop before it was demolished.
“At first, I just had the names of the months there to separate the documentary into four sections … but then I decided to capture more of his creativity there. I called him up and asked him what his thoughts were, and he gave me a name for June, July, August and September to bring everything together.”
In the opening scenes, Goodman speaks to those who watch by saying, “The story is about an artist, who in his early twenties wasn’t an artist, who came to Fire Island, and became this person.”
A Kenny is a piece of art or sterling silver jewelry made from Goodman’s carvings. From surfboards, aquatic life, castles, and most significantly faces that are known to him as his “characters,” Goodman shares his experiences with those who embellish their homes and bodies with his art.
One particular moving clip among those, of Goodman sitting outside of his shop whittling away at pieces of wood, depicts him in his creative process, placing multiple cast-iron pans into a sunshine-like formation for his front yard “pot garden” made of rusted cookware.
“I think as people do watch this, you have to put your devices away and take it as kind of a meditation. I know that people have so much on their minds existing in our current world, but to watch how Kenny has simplified life to the core is a good test for ourselves to try and do the same things,” Rosen said.
This part in the middle divides the film from the regular day in the life of the shop with people bustling in and out to his final days as the season slows down. He is shown creating something out of what many would view as trash.
“I think in that scene, if you slow down and really absorb it, it demonstrates the patience and creativity that Kenny embodies. You watch him create something out of a vision he holds, and that is what all of his art is … putting things together,” Rosen said.
Rosen recalled that Kenny always said to “do what you enjoy,” and said she wanted to capture the emotions of the man who spoke these words throughout the film.
“I definitely wanted to arouse nostalgia in terms of showing this film to the people of the island,” Rosen said. “I hope that because it has been a few years, it’ll bring more to people’s hearts to watch the film … as absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
As the documentary follows Goodman in his final summer, each clip stands to demonstrate his local popularity as an artist and what each piece symbolizes to the hands, neck, wrists and ankles of who it belongs. As visitors come and go through the shop’s doors, the film clearly communicates that there is no specific person that Goodman creates for. There is a Kenny for everybody.
“I want people to take away that you should surround yourself by what you love and everything else will fall into place,” Rosen said. “Kenny says at the end, ‘Having a happy life is spectacular…’ and that captures the exact sentiment I want to communicate to those who watch. I want to demonstrate that Kenny was much greater than his collection of art.”
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