Nearly a year after Cayman Brac artist Ronald “Foots” Kynes was arrested for possessing what was described as an “obscene publication” last July, Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn ended the proceedings against him with one simple sentence on Wednesday.
“You are acquitted of the charge before the court,” Magistrate Gunn told Mr. Kynes.
Mr. Kynes had been facing an obscene publication charge in relation to several nude statues on his property that allegedly depicted sexual acts, according to some of his fellow residents and the prosecution.
The two-day trial in April at the Aston Rutty Civic Centre entailed the prosecution calling eight witnesses, who argued that one statue Mr. Kynes had on public display depicted one woman giving oral sex to a fellow female, and that a second statue depicted a female sucking the breast of another. Two other statues of women were also the subject of the trial, but did not receive nearly as much attention from the prosecution or witnesses.
Mr. Kynes, for his part, submitted a slew of documents in his defense and contended that “my art is love.” He defended himself throughout the trial.
On Thursday, Magistrate Gunn sided with Mr. Kynes, ruling that the witnesses were mistaken in finding the statues in question sexual.
The judge said she examined the statues in question during a visit to Mr. Kynes’s Cayman Brac property, where the art was put on display in 2017. She discounted the interpretation that two of the statues were overtly sexual: the one allegedly depicting oral sex did not, in fact, explicitly show female genitals, she said. Regarding the other statue, the judge said one woman’s head was simply resting on another woman’s chest, rather than depicting a sexual act.
She added that she did not think Cayman’s community would find the others sexual or obscene, “save for a very few prudish individuals.”
Along with observing the statues, Magistrate Gunn also considered the morals and values held by Cayman’s general population, and whether the statues may have offended those morals.
While acknowledging that Caymanians are generally a “god-fearing people,” the judge also stated that Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac both regularly hold government-sponsored events such as Batabano and Braccannal. These events involve sexual depictions, including women wining and grinding on men’s crotches during the carnival-like celebrations.
“This sets the tone of our moral standard of the islands,” Magistrate Gunn said in her ruling.
After being acquitted of the charge, Mr. Kynes said he bears no ill-will to the people who attempted to prosecute him for his art.
“I have no animosity towards them,” he said. “If you have hate in your heart, all you’re hurting is yourself.”
However, Mr. Kynes also said the prosecution against him was a “witch hunt.” He had the statues on his property for months, he said, and was only arrested after also displaying the names of some of the people who had been complaining against him.
Moving forward, the Brac artist said he is working on several other statues, including one that has a Lord of the Rings theme and another that expresses his love for animals.