Thursday, March 10, 2011

Albert Fish - Max's Article

Max provided a Wikipedia article on Hamilton Howard "Albert" Fish, an American serial killer. He was a child rapist and cannibal, claiming to have raped, killed, or eaten many though he was only pinned for three murders where there was evidence of homicide on his behalf. He was born from a family with a history of mental disorders, sent to an orphanage after his father's death, and showed his first signs of torture fetishes when he took pleasure in the beatings he received there. He was introduced to more fetishes of socially unacceptable natures by the youth around him. Later he moved to New York City where he raped young men and even got married. Later he divorced and remarried for a short period of time, not before having a ton of kids, and he got straight into murder, rape, and cannibalism. His primary targets were the mentally retarded and the African American, but they weren't his only victims.

I found this to be a very interesting article of choice given the class and the usual topics we work with. It seems to have nothing to do with art on the surface, but when you think about it really hard, the man seemed to have a ritual. Even for an insane, and obviously wretched sort, he had a process and he likely considered his process of chopping up and roasting people up to be an art. The way he wrote it was in flowery, explicit detail, like he was trying out for the cannibal's food network. But any way you slice it {and that pun was horribly intended}, he's still sick, as was his acts. You can tell that his intelligence is embraced by insanity, which makes him all the more terrifying. He is quite aptly named the 'Boogeyman'. It was an intriguing article, and fascinating for its overviews on Fish's criminal behavior. I've always been interested by these sorts of stories, having been raised with movies about boogeymen of all sorts. While reading this article I couldn't help but think of Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street, only this guy went a step further and raped and ate his real life. If they'd have made a movie about this guy and I saw it as a kid, and I knew it was a true story, it would have kept me from sleeping just as well as the Nightmare on Elm Street series had. The only difference between the two, after all, is that the man ACTUALLY existed. And he's even sicker than the man in the fiction. It's so much easier to deny the existence of a monster that never did exist. 

So to answer Max's questions:

1. Fish met Grace Budd when her older brother Edward put out a classified in search of a country position. Fish visited the Budd family pretending to be interested in hiring Edward and in the process ended up meeting his younger sister, Grace.

2. He was arrested for embezzlement in 1903. Before that, he had been visiting brothels frequently for the beatings and he had just run away from nearly castrating a mentally retarded lover of his.

3. His family mental illnesses went as follows: His uncle suffered from religious mania, a brother was confined in a mental hospital, another brother died of hydrocephalus and his sister had a mental affliction of a sort. Apparently three other close relatives had severe mental illnesses and his mother suffered from frequent hallucinations.

4. Wertham claimed that Fish's cannibalism was associated with communion.

5. Everyone has their own rituals when it comes to making art. I never really think of them when I go through the motions; I simply view them as steps that I take in order to make progress, and sometimes they have to change when the circumstances call for it. I can't always consider it a ritual because I'm not very consistent. Sometimes I do get drawn in, and my habit of getting into detail starting to kick into the craft. That's a ritual I can't shake. I start putting in all these details and drawing almost automatically, even if I'm trying to copy a photograph or something out of my head. I don't have a problem with it as long as I'm not wasting too much time. And when I think of Max's art, I can tell he might get preoccupied with his details just as well. But I'm not sure what his ritual is like. I don't know how he approaches his drawings or how much time he takes to do them. Or if he gets lost in them like I get lost in mind, losing track of time. 

6. When you know someone's motivations, you can better understand what they've done. Knowing that Fish was raised in a household/time/place where religion and ritual thrived, and knowing that he was from a family that harbored many a madman, I could better believe the acts he had committed. Just as well, if I knew why someone made art, I could better understand their pieces. What we gain however, or what knowing really does for us, applies on the individual. Some people don't want to know why someone did something, or it just doesn't provide any closure for them. Others are content with what they learn and are willing to accept it as closure.

7. Chance and coincidence happen, as the universe we live in is chaotic and the circumstances we live in are constantly changing. Our intentions may seem clear, but things happen. It can be small and insignificant like losing your Ipod that you like to listen to while you work, or as big as losing someone you love. Your intentions can end up either changing or being snuffed out. Maybe you'll be less ambitious because you don't have the right music to listen to, or maybe you're just going to give up what you intended because you're too locked up in your loss to care anymore. Chance and coincidence can do a number of things to your intentions. They are the variables.

8. I liked this question with this article. It really does seem to ride well alongside it. Anyways, I think the artist is more important than the specific piece of art. Just like the murderer is more important than the murder itself, it's far more important to understand why the actions occurred rather than the action itself. The artwork can only provide you with a certain amount of information. The artist is where the art was born. It couldn't have happened without the artist--not in the exact same way. It's far more important to think of the artist because they're the wellspring from which the idea emerged. They can do it again, or they've done it before, and whatever they've done or will do will be different, yet drawn together by the same individual. 

I think I've already established what this article has to do with my art in the fifth question and the last, because other than ritual or the importance of the work or the one who made it happen, I can't quite think of how else it relates. 

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