Sculptor Ronald “Foots” Kynes, based on Cayman Brac, was charged on 16 October 2017 under section 157 of the Penal Code for “displaying an obscene object for public exhibition and intending to corrupt morals”, related to some of his artwork displayed on his property, reported Cayman News Service.
The sculptor, who is representing himself in court, pled not guilty in his first court hearing on 26 October and requested the case go to trial with a jury in Grand Cayman, rather than in Cayman Brac. His next hearing is set to take place in late November in Cayman Brac, reported Cayman Compass.
The sculptor was originally detained on 18 July 2017 after refusing to remove publicly visible sculptures that featured nudity, homosexuality and religious iconography that have fueled complaints. Kynes was set on police bail until 6 September, but it was later extended to 16 October, reported Cayman Compass.
The pieces were on display for three months, but it was in the week prior his arrest that the police had visited Kynes’ home daily, according to Kynes, following the community’s complaints, and was later arrested under the little-used section of the Penal Code that prohibits the distribution or public exhibition of obscene writings, drawing, paintings, or “any other object tending to corrupt morals”.
Kynes has complained several times about the treatment he received from both the police and the community. During his arrest, the police changed its statement, which first stated that the sculptures were on public property, then was changed to being “in plain view of the public”. He also accused the police of refusing to allow him to record their interactions or to provide him transcripts of his questioning, and that his complaints of harassment were being ignored by authorities.
On 12 August, two of the sculptures involved in the case were vandalized, and Kynes said that at least eight of his works have been damaged in similar circumstances since 2009. The artist also said he has received death threats and constant harassment from the community. Several artists based in the Cayman Islands have voiced their concern after Kynes’ arrest since “censorship has a chilling effect on all artists”, reported Cayman News Service.