Serial killers have been around for centuries. It is only over the last twenty-five years that it has been an accepted, if underground, means of artistic expression.
Often diminished through entertainment (TV shows, movies, etc.) such artist serial killers are deeper and more considered than popular media would lead us to believe.
Most artist serial killers operate in isolation and their achievements viewed by only small, often unsympathetic audiences. Their exhibitions are frequently cordoned and inaccessible, then quickly broken down by belligerent authorities.
This series of brochures seeks to inform the wider public of the aesthetics of these elusive artists and, we hope, to bring a broader understanding of their efforts.
Born in 1971 in Gainsfield, Nebraska, Fitch Darnell Micklin and his three siblings were raised by an alcoholic prostitute mother. While many believe that such an upbringing is a precursor to artistic endeavours, none of Fitch's siblings pursued careers in the arts: one is a lawyer, another a foreman and of the third there is no trace.
Fitch was known for his art from an early age - elementary teachers frequently displayed his works on classroom walls. Fitch excelled at high school, of particular note was his bone folio - coarse paintings of skeletons, using ground and dyed bone paste as the paint base.
Following high school, Fitch was expelled from the Kent Art School in Gainsfield in 1990. The faculty disapproved of his installation piece "Badger dismembering a pure-breed show cat". In the documentation it was noted that the taxidermied family cat in the piece belonged to one of the faculty members.
First independent foray
During 1992 Nebraska police discovered three of Micklin's pieces in Omaha and Lincoln. Similar to his Kent piece, two of these involved modelled attack scenes: the pieces entitled "Mugger with 90-year-old" and "Woman eviscerates rapist". The third, "Male nurse self-injects morphine" was a separate commentary and caused a stir through the Nebraska medical community. The pieces were removed and buried. Photographic records remain sealed in the Nebraska police files.
Later co-ordination with Iowa officials suggested that a fourth piece found in Walnut soon after was possibly also Micklin's. Titled "Transitory man stabs woman", the piece was less aesthetic in its arrangement. Photographs of this are easily found through internet search - and it is clearly not Micklin's work. Micklin himself vehemently denied having been out of Nebraska (at the time) and was understandably furious at the damage to his reputation caused by such sub-standard copy-cat work.
Second phase work
In 1998 Micklin began to actively pursue the exhibition of his works. Rather than leaving installations to be found he had the new works delivered to galleries. His approach changed radically and this sets him apart from the usual serial killer artist.
From 1998 until 2002, Micklin removed a single bone from each of thirty people and created unique and individual works on these tibias, ulnas, tarsals, mandibles and so on. The remains of each body was left in situ - be that in a park, a car or their own bed.
Micklin intricately decorated these bones with a mix of scrimshaw, carving, painting and inlaying. These astonishing works are amongst the finest examples of Micklin's creativity.
The works usually arrived by delivery service at a gallery some months after the bone's removal. Most gallery owners did not display the works, but contacted authorities who immediately confiscated the artwork. A few fortunate people at the Cottonwood Shade Gallery in Pine Forks were able to view the piece "Bird Flight over Glacier National Park". The gallery owner was expecting a ceramic piece with a similar title from one of her regular artists and so Micklin's piece was displayed, if mislabelled. When the expected piece arrived, Micklin's work was unfortunately switched out (though to all accounts the other work was inferior and did not ultimately sell).
Perhaps the best known work from this period is his "Green River, River" - the femur from a woman in Green River, Wyoming, decorated from right to left with a flowing river which traces its way from the watershed through to the sea, including very detailed and technically correct pictures of many fish and invertebrates which populate the rivers of the western states. The bone was mounted horizontally on a stainless steel plinth and encased in a sealed cylindrical jar. The bone, at the request of the woman's family, was unfortunately destroyed.
Third phase - "The Silver Strangler"
From 2002 until 2008 Micklin was on hiatus. Many have suggested that his creativity was exhausted. Others say that investigations forced him to keep a low profile.
From June 2008 new pieces began arriving regularly at New York galleries. These bones were inlaid with silver leaf. The bone donors for these most recent pieces had been strangled and so, as is the penchant for the most popular serial killers, Micklin was given the somewhat auspicious name "The Silver Strangler".
His most notable artwork from this period was "Telluride mining riot", a piece which tells the story of the 1899 mine disputes progressively through a continuous silver image, which can be followed along the bone from top to bottom, rotating as a helix.
Despite some cleverly timed deliveries, none of the pieces were ever actually shown. There are photographs in New York Police Department records, and some of the bones are in the vaults. Families did not wish them returned.
Micklin's future activities remain uncertain. The last of the Silver Strangler pieces was delivered in May 2010, three weeks after his incarceration (his delivery routing was complicated, in part to avoid authorities, which explains the delay).
Micklin was awaiting trial for close to one hundred murders, but escaped and is currently described as being "at large". We can only hope for some more brilliance from this gifted artist before he is recaptured.
Copyright: © 2010 Sean Monaghan
Sean Monaghan's guides to serial killers have been published on numerous websites. As well as writing guides and brochures Sean tutors in creative writing and reviews books. More information at his website www.venusvulture.com