'Climb up the ladder and look out!'

Corinne Innis talks gods in the street

Toni Wynn

Steve Jobs Tech God Altar in SOHOSteve Jobs Tech God Altar in SOHO

Corinne InnisSTEAM all caps.  STEM + Arts = STEAM, ancient practice, new acronym, currently recruiting acolytes. Screens and networks blink open, stay on. Art + Science + Art + Math + Art + Tech + Art + Engineering = a whole quadruples the sum of its parts. This here? Ars STEAMica. Where are we going/who will save us/have we lost our edge? Creativity and making were/are/will be. IRAAA looks back and forward at inventors and artists (often one and the same) over black time. It’s a mother lode, a welcome to America and how it innovates no matter how much press oppression gets.

Corinne Innis’ “Steve Jobs Tech God Altar” is a STEM + Art direct hit. Steve Jobs is tech, Innis creates art. Innis uses tech, Steve Jobs “is a tech god.” Innis sets up on West Broadway in SoHo where the air is papered with street art, where the street is art. Innis flexes, creates her Jobs art, gives us another reason to watch her work.

Steve Jobs’ Apple devices and operating systems are beloved of designers for their elegance, ease, and intuitive feel. Innis may not be the first contemporary artist to pay tribute to Steve Jobs, but she may be the happiest. Innis hasn’t had this much fun since kindergarten. She sold her real estate, quit teaching second grade (Innis loves second graders) and opened Chi Gallery in the Old City section of downtown Oakland, California. (“I used to sell IRAAA!”). Now she’s in New York connecting (“Recalculating…”) to the right wow, the right now.

Innis created her first Steve Jobs piece and placed it in a hand-carved Indian altar. An Apple product faithful, Innis reached beyond her appreciation for Apple devices when she was moved to deify Jobs. “I’m a little bit of a devotee of Steve Jobs, she says. “I like the fact that he’s an original thinker and a risk taker…he’s a kindred spirit.  The average person does not defy convention.”

And Jobs was Buddhist. Innis repeats classic Buddhist ideas in her second, more conventionally framed Jobs piece.

  • My religion is to live and to die without regret.
  • All know the way but few actually walk it. 

And layering the mix, Innis was inspired by a friend who showed her Taino petroglyph symbols. (Innis did her undergrad work in socio-cultural anthropology.) Jobs gets the Taino treatment here, with a line of Taino-inspired figures under Jobs’ image in the more conventionally framed Jobs piece.

Much of Innis’ recent work connects with graffiti and scribbling messages–the things she sees on New York City walls. Innis wasn’t learning anything new before street art caught her. Now she’s more open and free, creating a style that carries more meaning for her than straight painting. Innis explains, “Everything in the world now is about being social and communicating. It’s the times that we’re in. People want to interact and communicate with each other. Reality tv is people looking into other people’s worlds.” Innis draws, cartoons, and saves for later. Thought bubbles stay empty until they have a story.

One of Innis’ best friends documents graffiti on large-scale murals throughout the city. Innis considers Joe Moscato, the impresario behind The Idea Factory, an inspired associate. Moscato helps street artists transition to the larger art world.

When asked who besides Steve Jobs she’d deify with art, she replies, chuckling, “That guy who started Virgin Airlines.” Richard Branson. “Part of who I am is an entrepreneur. I really relate to people who take risks and have an idea and try to do it. The bad guys aren’t necessarily always bad. They may have some information that nobody else has, you know? It ain’t necessarily so.”

 Toni Wynn is a writer and museum consultant who lives in Hampton VA.