Crime, Community, and Canvas
The art of Patrick Alexis
A couple weeks ago, I received an email from Patrick Alexis. He’s an NYPD detective who has been following my work for some time, and he tells me that it’s helped to inform both his policing and his worldview. Patrick is also a gifted visual artist, and he uses his art to work through some of the ideas that he’s found in my work, along with that of thinkers like Roland Fryer and Michael Fortner.
It’s always humbling and gratifying to learn that my words and those of my fellow travelers are having an impact on people like Patrick, whose lives are directly affected by the issues we discuss. But to see those thoughts rendered here in these wonderful paintings takes my breath away. I see the devastating social problems of black communities reflected in this work, but I also see the deep humanity—the joy and pain—of the subjects and the artist. In other words, to me, Patrick’s work conveys the stakes and complexity of the struggle in which we’re engaged, one that involves not only adjusting incentives and implementing policies but also preserving that fragile humanity.
I present below the text of an email Patrick wrote to me (lightly edited) and a selection of his work. By his count, he’s made nearly a hundred(!) paintings, so this is a small but representative sample. I’m very curious to know your reaction to Patrick’s story and his art.
Note: All paintings are executed in oil and measure 48" x 60"
This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.
Good day, Mr. Glenn Loury,
I got your email address from Batya Ungar-Sargon. I read her book Bad News and was so positively affected by it that I reached out to her on Twitter. She responded back, and we’ve formed a friendship where we engage in a lot of discussions on a range of social issues.
During some of those discussions, I’ve expressed my admiration for you, your voice, your reason, and your ability to sum up complex ideas and opinions. Your commentary and analysis on issues involving race, particularly during 2020 and specifically George Floyd, greatly affected me. I am a detective with the NYPD, and your words helped me get through very difficult times as a police officer.
What also helped me was painting in my spare time. You and a number of other public thinkers such as your podcast co-host John McWhorter and other public thinkers, such as Coleman Hughes and Shelby Steele, are such an influential and driving force in my artwork that I hope to one day share with you.
I often find myself watching some of your podcast episodes, panel discussions, and speeches more than once, and I come away learning something I had missed the first time around. As a result I find myself reading more and doing research, and I include my findings in my artwork.
Finally, I would like to say that, although I’m not an academic or intellectual, I appreciate your work. It is both applicable professionally and personally. I am forever a fan and share your work wherever and with whomever I can. Thank you for all you do.