Foots defending himself in obscenity trial

| 27/04/2018 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Foots with his depiction of John Lennon

(CNS): The first day of the two-day trial of artist Ronald Gregory Kynes, also known as “Foots”, appeared to be a frustrating experience for all concerned, especially for Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn, who had to repeatedly stop the proceedings to remind the defendant, who is representing himself, what he was supposed to be doing during cross-examination. Frequently slipping into making statements and trying to explain his artwork, Kynes at times left the court struggling to understand his questions.

The defendant is charged with possession of an obscene publication under the Penal Code, section 157 (1) a – “a person who for the purpose of or by way of trade or for the purpose of distribution or public exhibition, makes, produces or has in his possession any one or more obscene writings, drawings, prints, paintings, printed matter, pictures, posters, emblems, photographs, cinematograph films, discs, tapes or other obscene objects or any other object tending to corrupt morals.”

The alleged obscene objects in this case are four statues that were among a collection displayed on a piece of land owned by Kynes on the South Side of Cayman Brac, next to the road. The statues in question caused a number of complaints from residents of the island, who found them offensive.

On Thursday in Summary Court on Cayman Brac, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran, who is prosecuting the case, produced five witnesses who had made complaints to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service about the statues. He questioned them in court about what they saw and how it made them feel.

The most offensive for all the witnesses seemed to depict two naked women, one standing and the other kneeling in front of her performing oral sex. Another statue described by all the witnesses seemed to show one woman kissing the naked breast of another woman.

All the witnesses, as they were questioned by Moran, said that the statues were in plain sight and easily seen by people driving past. They all expressed concern that they could be seen by children.

Local artist Alta Solomon said she was “a little bit shocked” when she saw them, describing them as “uncouth” and “not appropriate”. She said that her husband, the artist Gordon Solomon, was “a little put off” by them. Customs officer Raquel Matute said she did not think that the statues should be on display so all could see but would not object if they were displayed privately.

Pastor Thomas French, of the Church of God in Cotton Tree Bay, and his wife, Carla French, both gave evidence. While Foots, in somewhat muddled cross-examination, suggested that they were averse to the fact two women engaged in a sexual act, they both maintained that they would have been just as shocked if it had been two men or a man and a woman.

“How do you feel about homosexuality?” Kynes asked Pastor French. “My beliefs are based on what the Scriptures say about sexuality,” he responded, but was not asked to clarify that.

Carla French told the court that she was “embarrassed” that tourists would “think that’s how the island was”.

Pastor French described how, after the statues were first displayed in July 2017, that he had fielded calls from other pastors on the island. He said he perceived the statues as “pornographic and obscene” and felt he needed to do something “to alleviate the situation”. However, he did not know that Kynes had already been arrested when he made his complaint to the police.

He also described another statue of a naked woman with an occult symbol and “two large exposed breasts”. He said he was “appalled” by the nature of the statues and that he did not understand the purpose of displaying them on Cayman Brac.

Kynes and Pastor French also had a back and forth, more debate than cross-examination, about a previous work by the artist of a cross with a bloody head of a dead goat in the place of Christ and the number 666. Kynes maintained that the artwork, called “Apocalypse Now”, depicted Armageddon and was religious in nature, while the pastor disputed this and said the community had been especially offended because it had been displayed over the Easter weekend.

Justice Gunn interrupted, saying the questioning had “veered off the path” of the subject of the actual court case.

The goat head sculpture was also brought up several times by Elvis McKeever, who told the court that he had organised a demonstration on the island about what he called “devil art”.

He described the piece depicting oral sex as “really disgusting” and the display generally as “rude, plain disrespectful”. He called Kynes a “grand deceptionist”, saying he keeps changing the art around.

Kynes said that one statue that McKeever had complained about, which has a glass skull in a woman’s genital area, depicted the Greek goddess of the underworld Hekate.

“Does that offend you?” Kynes asked. “Yes,” he answered. “How does that affect Christian beliefs?” Kynes asked.

“You are very disrespectful,” McKeever told him. “You are evil and ungodly and you shall pay for that,” McKeever told Kynes, although when asked he said he was not a Christian but had been raised in a Christian community.

The case continues on Cayman Brac this morning.

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