To say the temperature of relations between police officers and those they protect are lukewarm is an understatement.
Recent video coverage of various acts of violence has residents of all shades, sizes, and cultures confused, nervous, and upset. Tackling these various emotions through the style of cartooning is U.S. Virgin Islands artist Corinne Innis.
Her latest exhibit, “Like Clockwork,” lends inspiration from the list of viral videos like Sandra Bland seen on social media feeds, hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and her own heritage.
“I see a real danger of law enforcement essentially turning against the people they’re supposed to protect and serve. I went back to the tradition of cartooning; using characters to prove a political point,” Innis explained.
Connected to members of the police force in varying ways, Innis is a granddaughter, sibling, first-cousin, and aunt to members who have served in varying degrees as a policeman.
She does not discount the hard work or challenges members of the police force handle. Instead, her art is a reflection of the confusion many feel by those being captured wearing the uniform in a violent matter.
“I know that I’ve been taught to think of policing and law enforcement one way but my eyes don’t lie,” she said.
In many of her pieces, Innis includes jumbees – ghosts – in the background representing those who were victim of this type of violence. Often seen as teddy bears or flowers, items typically left behind at public vigils for lost loved ones.
“Jumbee is a ghost like you see in Shakespearean plays there’s always like a luminous presence in the back. I wanted the jumbees to be in the back representing some of the people that have been murdered or died without ever being brought to justice,” she said.
Likening these violent acts to a sense of power experienced by rapists, many of Innis’ pieces depict nudity. Specifically stripping the police officers of their uniform, many are nude from the waist down, some even dressed in bondage suits.
“My images say that police violence is sexual. It is law enforcement XX, fueled by adrenaline, S and M, and an unwilling submissive,” she explains in her artist statement.
“I feel these rogue cops are dishonoring the uniform so I’m stripping them bare of the uniform to say I’m exposing you,” she added.
A noted character Innis punctuates in her work is Alex from the novel turned movie “Clockwork Orange.” An ultraviolent villain who enjoys inflicting harm, Innis creates her own Alex character and puts a badge on him – drawing on a parallel between the fictional violence and reality.
“A known sociopath in ‘Clockwork Orange’ but I’m seeing the same person; it’s like that’s not a police officer that’s Alex,” she said. “I’m seeing Alex’s knee on the back of a teenager, ripping out a young man’s spine. They’re supposed to be taking a person to justice, not beating them up with a club. Am I seeing the movie or am I seeing reality?”
Through this exhibit, Innis hopes to spark conversations within the community about their own thoughts towards police and what is needed to change this new trend.
In her next gallery talk, Innis hopes to engage even more young people — many of which attended her opening reception — to discuss the tension experienced.
Like Clockwork [159 Hope St. between Keap Street and Union Avenue in East Williamsburg, (929) 324-1117, www.corin