Walking into an art gallery I expect to see an assortment of artistic works, some aesthetically pleasing to the eye, full of grace and beauty, and others a bit eccentric in appearance, foreign in concept and hard for my mind to digest. Walking into a room littered with images of the notorious serial killer Jeffery Dahmer caught me off guard and left my feelings clouded and unsettled.
It felt odd seeing yearbook photos of him. I never expected to see Dahmer on display as a person both humanized and turned into a piece of art. Inside I burned up thinking that Dahmer’s name was becoming more infamous. Then the idea of a human life put on display for viewers to judge and criticize like a painting disturbed me. Covering the walls hung pages from a graphic novel by John “Derf” Backderf, who grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio attending the same junior high and high school in the mid-1970s as Dahmer.
Overall the show succeeded, because in spite of my human emotions becoming increasingly complicated as I spent time in the gallery, the story intrigued and captivated me. Derf found an audience in me and I spent time with his work looking, reading and feeling. The other pieces did not motivate me to spend time with them but Derf’s exhibition gave me a reason and a chance to see a glimpse of a tragic and demoralized figure.
My Friend Dahmer is on view through April 21, 2012 at the William Busta Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio.
William Busta Gallery
2731 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland OH 44115
Kaitlynn Lane is a student and writer based in Akron, OH. View more articles by Kaitlynn Lane.