Brush with the law: Painter makes arresting images of police

Policing America: Sharilyn Neidhardt will show her painting series “I Love A Man In A Uniform” during Bushwick Open Studios.
Brooklyn Paper
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Bushwick Open Studios is burning!

A selection of eerie paintings of riots, burning cars, and heavily armed police will get a moment in the helicopter spotlight this weekend, as part of the 11th annual Bushwick Open Studios festival. The creator of the series “I Love A Man In A Uniform,” showing at Brooklyn Fire Proof Stages on Oct. 1-2, hopes that her brightly colored oil paintings can call attention to the way that police have been militarized.

“The way that the cops are heavily armored, particularly in New York City, I think this is a thing that can easily slip into the background and is something we don’t really think about,” said Sharilyn Neidhardt. “And with these paintings I’m hoping to bring it back up to the surface.”

Her paintings are stylized depictions of actual conflicts captured by photojournalists across the country. It is crucial to Neidhardt’s work that the images are anchored in reality, she said.

“I want to be specific and show something that’s really happening — it’s maybe a photojournalistic impulse,” she said. “I want to talk about something not that I’m imagining, it’s a bit more of a documentary.”

The East Williamsburg artist was inspired to create the project while sifting through wire service images during her day job as a photo editor, said Neidhardt.

“I started stopping on these images of the police being so heavily armored,” said Neidhardt. “I think that’s striking, they’re often wearing heavy riot gear. Why are cops in Times Square with what appear to be AK-47s? What are they waiting for?”

She first planned to include images of police across the globe, but during the Occupy Wall Street movement, she began hearing tales of police harassment from photographers covering the protest movement. The stories made her want to focus her art closer to home.

“I guess I was naïve, but I was really shocked at the police being violent towards people who were obviously non-violent protestors,” said Neidhardt. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, this is not something that happens all over the world, this is happening to people I know. In my city.’ ”

Neidhardt’s show is one of hundreds of events at Bushwick Open Studios — a weekend-long art crawl during which creative types in the nabe open their doors to visitors and fill the streets with their work.

“I Love a Man in a Uniform” at Brooklyn Fire Proof Stages [119 Ingraham St. at Porter Avenue in Bushwick, (718) 456–7571,]. Oct. 1, noon–X pm; Oct. 2, 6–X pm.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at or by calling (718) 260–2517. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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