Weird Crimes Often End Softly

Joey Hill

It’s a dark and chilly December night, and the Grimm & Barratt art gallery is showcasing the drawings of Arthur Sandoval.

Glowing against the roads of Westport, the interior lights of Grimm’s illuminate the gold and red playbill-style window sign designating the building as a tattoo parlor. Inside, the architecture is Kustom Kulture Classical, complete with black and white checkerboard tile and wall-sized mirrors. Sandoval’s six framed drawings are arranged on a wall facing the street.

Four of the pieces are large – 18 by 24 inches – while the other two are smaller, measuring 9 by 12 inches. The title of “Psychos and Cereal” becomes more fitting by the second as one views the drawings. Sandoval is depicting both horror movie villains and real-life serial killers in scenarios of celebrity excess and grandeur. One drawing features the possessed doll Chucky from the “Child’s Play” films as a young adult. Raking in his success, he is shown with six pack abs and a collection of Grammys behind him.

 “I just wanted to see images together that you don’t see,” Sandoval said. “I’ve always wanted to know what would happen if Chucky grew up. Just like in some ridiculous idea for a movie. When someone is creating an idea for a movie they start out with something like a sketch. I think that would be an awesome movie.”

Another drawing is a portrait of Pinhead from “Hellraiser” donning a suit, flanked by cops and paparazzi as he exits a courthouse.

“If characters like this were in real life and got in trouble with the law it would just look ridiculous,” Sandoval said.

With the TMZ logo placed in the lower right hand corner of the drawing, the image gains frightening reality that rises above the ridiculousness of Pinhead being tried in the American court system.

The other pieces in the collection center around real-life people, mainly Robert Downey Jr. and Charles Manson. Manson is the subject of two drawings: one simple portrait Sandoval did in his early 20s, and another showing Manson surrounded by famous landmarks of Los Angeles, portraits of various “helter skelter murder” conspirators and Sharon Tate.

Robert Downey Jr.’s portrait shows the actor at a young age, trapped in what appears to be a vortex of syringes, blood stains, women’s legs and lines of cocaine.

“I just saw a picture of Robert Downey Jr. and thought ‘that would be easy to draw.’ And I just drew this stuff around him, kind of what he used to do, but it’s really just a background,” Sandoval said.  “I think [celebrity culture] affects us a lot. They’re good images, they’re good advertisements – people notice them all the time.”

When asked about the celebrity status of killers and criminals like Charles Manson, Sandoval looked to the portrait of Manson.

“People are always going to be interested in it,” he said. “We have horror movies, slasher movies … that’s what people like. They like to be scared.”

Sandoval’s series “Psychos and Cereal” raises questions about the restraint for taste present in today’s celebrity culture and demonstrates the constantly changing masks that time creates among the macabre and the murderous.