Everyday for the last two weeks I have drawn between 1-3 portraits of serial killers.
I have had a fascination with serial killers since middle school and, quite honestly, that’s not an easy thing to admit to. No matter how desensitized society claims to be, I still feel as though admitting to having a curiosity of serial killers is taboo. My curiosity was recently re-awakened with a trip to the Museum of Death in Los Angeles, CA. My visit to this museum was eerily eye-opening and, believe it or not, gave me a greater appreciation for living the life I have today.
First of all, the Museum of Death is just that. It features a “Serial Killer Room”, a “Funeral Room” and a “Manson Family Room” to name a few. Ironically, the day I went to visit was the same day the NIght Stalker, Richard Ramirez, passed away in San Quentin State Prison. There was a binder of letters written by Ramirez to his brother in which he talked about prison life and his desire for nude magazines. It was strange. It gave me chills. I felt, for lack of a better word, icky. The M.O.D had original artwork by John Wayne Gacy and Henry Lee Lucas and a room full of taxidermy animals. There were videos playing on a loop, one of which showed (from start to finish) the process of embalming a deceased body. I had to, quite literally, face my fears. I fear(ed) dying- who doesn’t?
Serial killers are unsettling because they can be anybody. Serial killers have parents. Serial killers are parents. Serial killers have husbands and wives. Serial killers go to college and obtain degrees and work normal jobs. Serial killers are named John, Richard, David, Jeffrey, Rose or Dennis. What’s fascinating, to me, is the fact that serial killers are everyday people, however, they have crossed a line into a fantasy world of their own. It’s a world that I am not making an attempt to figure out, or make excuses for their crimes. They’re all heinous acts of vicious violence against innocent individuals. On the other hand, the family of those serial killers are just as much victims as the people who died at their hands. All of it is a very difficult situation to comprehend and my visit to the M.O.D. left me feeling very introspective about my perspective of humanity in general.
One of the pieces in the museum that moved me to tears was a suicide letter by a sixty-something year old parent to his son. This person felt utterly useless in a world of new technology that he was not accustomed to or felt he could understand. He felt as though he was a burden to his family and believed his death would solve that. Days after my visit to the M.O.D., I was a part of a group art show called “Obsolete” in San Diego, CA. The theme was to create artwork using media, such as cassette tapes, vhs videos and 8-tracks that are now considered “obsolete”; it was a perfect opportunity to show how deeply this particular letter in the exhibit affected me.
My painting, entitled “Contaminated”, included a row of cassette tapes attached at the top of the canvas sealed with resin. The background consisted of text from a group of various suicide letters that I searched for online and compiled into one phrase:
“Dear World/ I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool/ I feel certain that I am going mad again/ I feel like I’m trapped in a contaminated body/ There’s nothing new in dying now/ Though living is no newer/ I have chosen to die/ But I haven’t chosen to be forgotten”
I applied layers upon layers of acrylic paint and black ink to create a heavily textured portrait of a person who clearly displayed feelings of despair and feared becoming obsolete.
I think about the serial killer memorabilia that I encountered at the M.O.D. almost everyday, even though it has been weeks since my visit. I marvel at the odd normalcy that surrounds these men and women who made the choice(s) to end another humans life. The portraits I have been drawing are by no means an attempt to make light of the death and destruction that has occurred, rather,they are a means to absorb the fact that death can literally be around the corner. There are numerous notable serial killers (unfortunately) and my goal is complete a collection of portraits to include in a zine, along with facts about each person.
Death is part of the cycle of life and that is all the more reason for me to appreciate my family, friends, my partner and the fact that I have the opportunity in my life to not only create art, but share it as well.