THERE ARE AT LEAST two pieces of correspondence missing from They Call Him Mr. Gacy, C. Ivor McClelland’s 1989 collection of letters to and from convicted serial-murderer-turned-painter John Wayne Gacy. In 1987 a recent Cal Arts graduate named Richard Hawkins wrote the infamous criminal a letter. Did Gacy, it queried, experience feelings of confinement and hopelessness in the presence of beauty? And, if so, did his torture-murders of some 30-odd boys help him feel better? Hawkins, who often incorporates celebrity memorabilia in his work, hoped to gain Gacy’s participation in his installation-in-progress—a multimedia study of unrequited sexual fixation, with the actor Tom Cruise as its objet fixe. But the questions he posed were intended neither as jokes nor as the usual lurid countercultural curiosity. For Hawkins honestly saw in Gacy an alter ego of sorts, someone with extreme sexual

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.