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Marlene McCarty

 

 

Cathy Lebowitz interviews Josefina Ayerza

 

To resume again...

Pure Psychoanalysis,
Applied Psycho-
analysis and
Psychotherapy
J
ACQUES-ALAIN MILLER

A Sophism of
Courtly Love
E
RIC LAURENT

On Love as Comedy
A
LENKA ZUPANCIC

From Identification
to the Logic of
the Perceived
R
ICHARD KLEIN

Homo Sacer
in Afghanistan
S
LAVOJ ZIZEK

Marlene McCarty
C
ATHY LEBOWITZ
interviews
JOSEFINA AYERZA

McCarty drawing

BARBARA MULLENS was Carolyn Mullens' daughter from a previous marriage and JENNALEIGH was Marvin Mullens' daughter from a previous marriage. On September 26, 1992 as they slept in their Prospect, Virginia trailer Carolyn and Marvin were shot eight times in the head with a 22 caliber rifle. The stepsisters reported the killing from their grandparents' house about a half mile away. Later, both girls confessed to the crime. They were charged with first degree murder. During the hearing, BARBARA massaged a tissue between her fingers and pulled a ring off and on. JENNALEIGH rocked back and forth and fiddled with her hair.

Cathy: Why do you think BARBARA is massaging a tissue between her fingers and pulling a ring on and off?

Josefina: I see it as a tie to the mother, a bit like the pacifier. But since it's a piece of tissue and it's in the fingers, it's especially like a cord, like some kind of umbilical cord. Say she doesn't want to let go.

C: So B
ARBARA is maybe too attached to her mother, doesn't want to let go, but killed her.

J: Well, that's a contradiction, isn't it? Or maybe as to let go, she had to kill the mother, that's a way to let go after all. Or maybe the tissue is finally attaching her to something else, because schizophrenics are attached, always.

C: To whom?

J: To some one who gives the orders. I've had patients that very clearly tell you "now they are silent, but they will start talking in a while, I'm always attached and I can not get out, and I can not let go. They have me." They are attached to something.

C: To these voices?

J: Well, the voices are directing their lives, they are invaded. Jacques Lacan says about the invader that it is language.

C: Okay, the other girl, J
ENNALEIGH was rocking back and forth. Is that a different thing? I know autistic children rock back and forth.

J: Well we don't know, it could be a symptom. What I can think of the two girls is that they are not directly connected to the reality of what they did. The connection is through the other one. If only by way of symbiosis - see how identical they are. I say they function from the body of the other. Thus the combined action is what makes for the intertwining.

C: Maybe we should talk about M
ARY BELL now.

McCarty drawing

MARY BELL was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1957. Her father is not known. MARY's mother married Billy Bell when MARY was a baby. When Mary was eleven she become best friends with her new neighbor, Norma Bell. On May 25, 1968, four-year old Martin Brown was found in an abandoned house. Handwritten graffiti-like notes of profanity were sparsely scattered about the crime scene. MARY and Norma asked to view his coffin. They giggled when they saw it. In the afternoon of July 31, 1968, three year old Brian Howe disappeared. Brian was found at 11:10 that evening. The police concluded from the marks on Brian's neck that he had been killed by a child. They interviewed all local children. Norma struck them as peculiar because she could not stop smiling. MARY because she was so evasive. Inspector Dobson interviewed Norma. Norma said that MARY threatened to steal other children if she told. Inspector Dobson saw MARY standing in front of the Howe's house as the coffin was brought out. She was laughing and rubbing her hands. MARY stated that Norma squeezed Brian's neck so hard her fingertips turned white. Eventually the girls implicated each other in that murder as well. Norma Bell was acquitted. MARY BELL was sentenced to life in prison.

C: These two girls seem to have a lot of enjoyment, because they were both laughing and smiling after. It's different than the other story.

J: Lacan talks about a jouissance of transgression. That may have to do with their laugh. I think we also have to consider the psychotic here, because of the detachment of feeling. The little boy is there, dead, and dead by them, and they are giggling and smiling.

C: But that's a feeling, isn't it? I mean it's not the proper feeling, or the normal feeling.

J: You think jouissance is a feeling?

C: Oh! I thought it was.

J: I'm thinking feeling for this dead boy there, with regard to something the Marquis de Sade talks about. Crime supposedly being the only thing that can go against the laws of nature, it will efface decay and death. Thus only crime can start from the beginning, "let's do it different." But is it the case with the girls? Is the giggling and smiling coming from the actual sadistic drive? Yet there is no pity or fear... With the Marquis de Sade pity and fear are primarily feelings. There's no pity here and there's no fear.

C: One common element Marlene McCarty seems to bring out is their background. Often we are told these children are not in a nuclear family with a biological mother and father. I wonder if she's making some kind of theory about that?

J: Yeah the families do have these strange combinations. But let me tell you, psychosis could already be there. Since psychosis happens in three generations. You know what they say about Joyce, that he was nearly... or he was a psychotic but with the literature he handled it. Yet his daughter is a psychotic - she's a schizophrenic. Is the case psychosis here? This is what is difficult to measure. Whether they are regular criminals or they are psychotic. For once they commit the crime, this has to be considered, whether it was a very sick person that has to go to a mental institution or a criminal that should go to jail.

C: Well they are all children.

J: So the responsibility is less. Let's ponder on what induces the crime. Are they possessed? Because you know how the schizophrenic's body may come apart as if somebody else was doing it. With the schizophrenic somebody else could get in there and do it for them.

C: Well it's funny because in both these stories there are two children doing it in reality.

J: Now that's folie ŕ deux. Like the Papin sisters. And this is two servant girls who killed their employer and her daughter. They kill and there doesn't seem to be a conversation previous. They just started doing it and they were perfectly combined. Lacan wrote about it very early in his career. The servant girls slept in the same bed you know. After they killed the mother and daughter, they put blood on the dead bodies' legs and were cutting their sexes. They put blood of the one dead woman on the other. And they cut the victims' eyes out.

C: What was Lacan's analysis?

J: He called it a paranoiac crime. And further talks of an aggressive drive resolving itself in murder. This is what appears to be the malady that serves as the foundation of the psychosis.
We did not mention the fact that M
ARY BELL is drawing her body with a pencil. That is she is drawing her sex on top of her skirt. Though she could be drawing somebody else on top of herself.

C: S
YLVIA LIKENS is a different kind of story.

SYLVIA LIKENS and her younger sister Jenny were left in the care of Gertrude Baniszweski while their parents went to work at the summer state fairs. SYLVIA was sixteen years old. Gertrude became convinced that SYLVIA was a slut. She beat SYLVIA for minor offenses. Gertrude encouraged her seven other children and the boys in the neighborhood to taunt SYLVIA and abuse her. They tied her up and beat her. They burned and scolded her. They constantly accused her of having sex. On October 26, 1965, SYLVIA's body was found in Gertrude's basement. She was covered with cigarette burns. The words "I am a prostitute and proud of it" were carved on her abdomen. Gertrude showed the police letters that SYLVIA had written detailing her sluttish behavior. Later the police discovered that SYLVIA was forced to write the letters. Gertrude was incarcerated but has now been released.

McCarty drawing
J: It doesn't show the killer, but the victim. And there are the drawn sexual traits again. There could be sexual frustration in Gertrude. And now she projects this frustration on the girl, while accusing her of being a prostitute. Gertrude hated the girl, still she could of been sexually aroused by her. What she certainly was is aroused to kill.

C: So do you think that Gertrude is psychotic?

J: Not necessarily. Just envy can draw someone into delusion. Say Gertrude was attracted to S
YLVIA and didn't really know it. Every time she looks at the girl her gaze is ready to bring up the sexual features from underneath the clothes? That is already a reason to panic. Thus it affects her to a point that she has to kill her, and then torture the dead body... possess it.
With P
AMELA KNUCKLES we have the boyfriend and the brother helping her: folie ŕ trois.

McCarty drawing

PAMELA's mother Nancy Knuckles was a nurse and single parent. Nancy believed punishment would make her children spiritually pure. Whippings were preceded by prayer. In special cases she would stuff her children into laundry bags, tie their hands behind their backs and lock the bag in the closet. One afternoon, Nancy was preparing to leave her house when PAMELA looped a garotte around her mother's neck from behind and pulled. "Die bitch! Die bitch!" she screamed. PAMELA's boyfriend, Dennis jumped in and grabbed both ends of the garotte and pulled. PAMELA's brother Bart yelled to his sisters to bring him their mother's stethoscope and pressed it to her chest, "Well, she won't die." He got a white plastic garbage bag from the kitchen. He pulled it over her head and tied it in the back. Later PAMELA said she was in a dreamlike state as she strangled her mother.

C: I'm starting to think this is about creating an erotic feeling in the viewer, because the artist is showing the sex of these young girls and telling these violent stories, so it seems to be linking sex and violence for the viewer's consumption.

J: Does it have to do with a fantasy of the artist herself? In this case the mother is nasty and angry. She tortures her children to a point that they are so angry that they want to kill her. Why would we agree that anger and sex go together. The response of the feminine could have to do with the vision of the dead body itself. We know Lacan says that woman does not exist. She comes forth. What made for it to happen? We can still ask about that.

C: It's as if the murders are making the woman exist in these drawings.

CAMELLIA LOU was thirteen and her sister STEPHANIE DAWN was twelve. They lived with their mother, Marilyn. Marilyn Fries was a nurse. She had been divorced for about two years. The girls had disciplinary problems in school. Their mother decided to send them to The Randolph Macon Military Academy. On September 3rd, 1993, the day before the Fries sisters were due to report at the military school, the police received a 911 call at 2:19am. One of the girls told the police that an intruder had entered their home. The sisters locked themselves in a closet. When they came out, they said, their mother was dead. There were stab wounds all over the front and back of her body. At 4:15 am the police charged CAMELLIA LOU and STEPHANIE DAWN with murder. They also arrested and charged CAMELLIA LOU's fourteen year old boyfriend, Shawn Roadcap.

McCarty drawing
J: CAMELLIA LOU and STEPHANIE DAWN FRIES and the boyfriend kill the mother. This goes between them. But why did they kill her? This is not giving any blame to the mother. It is saying the girls had disciplinary problems in school. The question is, do they have to kill the mother to exist as a woman. Lacan puts beauty and desire together . They are two extremes. Excessive beauty veils something. At the other extreme there is the desire. The Thing is this beauty and the desire at the same time. The artist connects the desire to the crime - to horror. Again with the Marquis de Sade beauty is living with the horror of suffering and how much you can resist it.

C: Resist the pain?

J: Yes, resist in the pain. But who knows in these cases if the pain is much. From the picture of these two girls, there seems to be a sexual something between them.

C: Why does McCarty present the facts that she presents? And leaves us to fill in and wonder? Is that the point? That we wonder, that it engages us in wondering about the missing parts of the stories?

J: Maybe the missing parts of the story are always there when it comes to a crime. The thing is how do you, a normal person and not a criminal, follow the logic of a criminal. She never tells us something coming from the murderer. The murderer just doesn't talk. There is no logic in the world to follow those stories. If they are psychotic the unconscious is present but it doesn't function. You read in Schreber's Memoirs... how his body is being invaded by the feminine, through the nerves, how he will become God's prostitute. For him this is happening - it's not a fantasy. Then words are real things... You can see he believes it. With Schreber, this is how we know of the missing parts, because he wrote it. But in the stories of these girls how do we know?

C: So who is the subject here? And who would be the Other?

J: Say it is a pervert subject. In concern with the girls exhibiting their sexual traits over their clothing, it takes us directly to a voyeur appearing in the Other that could be the viewer. A desiring Other, it looks - and this is how there is a hole in this Other. The exhibitionist, for the case of the girls, wants to cover the hole. The subject, a voyeur, arises in this Other. Yet what it sees, a very hidden gaze, stands for the object lost and suddenly refound in the glare of shame. With K
ARIN APARO who sits in the corner while the boyfriend kills the mother - the doing has not been her own even if she induces it - she could be the voyeur. The body traits that get drawn through her arm, the glove, when do they appear? At that point she is the exhibitionist.

McCarty drawing

KARIN APARO was an excellent student and a talented violinist. Her mother, Joyce Aparo, was a social worker. On August 5, 1987, Joyce's body was found under a highway overpass wearing a nightgown. She had been strangled with a pair of pantyhose. KARIN's 19-year old boyfriend, Dennis, was arrested and charged with murder. He said that his love for KARIN went beyond obsession and that he was incapable of not doing her bidding. "There is nothing I wouldnąt do for her‹that I loved her is an understatement." KARIN testified that her mother slapped her and often embarrassed her publicly claiming that KARIN was the illegitimate daughter of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Hartford and refused to let her attend church. KARIN was cleared on the charge of accessory to murder. The jury deadlocked on the second count that she had conspired to commit the crime. A mistrial was declared.

C: Who is the Other in that case?

J: With Lacan the Other is a place. It can materialize in a person. Let's say that it is the mother.

C: And who wants to cover the hole, the boyfriend or... ?

J: Let's take the structure of the discourse to see where the subject leads us. Killing the mother the boyfriend enacts the mother/daughter's fantasy. Let's say that in this he becomes a subject. She looks, at his doing - he shows. So for now she is the voyeur and he is being the exhibitionist. Until you see the traits of her breast appear through the clothes. Have they switched roles? The artist shows the traits to you, the viewer. But K
ARIN is eventually showing her breast to the dead mother, even if the dead mother doesn't materialize like Hamlet's father. Mother/Other, certainly not whole, not complete, the Other will never have it all.

C: Never?

J: Never, the Other is always incomplete. Though this is a virtual Other. The voyeur wants to bring up the gaze to make the Other exist. But he doesn't stop there. When looking at couples in the park, he wants the couple to know he's there. He'll make noises. Another example is woman, always being looked at. Even when she is alone, she is looked at by an other. The voyeur will want this other to materialize. While the woman is alone and she's looked at by an other, this is just her fantasy. But if there suddenly is someone looking, she is showing - only because he is looking, she is showing.

C: Once she becomes aware of his presence she becomes an exhibitionist?

J: That's it, and she may hate him for making her an exhibitionist. But she is already trapped in there.

C: And that's what the voyeur likes, making her an exhibitionist?

J: Yes.

C: So does the viewer become the voyeur in these cases?

J: Now the artist entraps you, the viewer. Because you look, she is showing. You look, she shows the sexual features as they get drawn over the clothes.

McCarty drawing

MARLENE OLIVE. 353 Hibiscus Way. Marin County, California. On June 21, 1976 Marlene took a hammer and bashed her mother's head in while she was sleeping.

 

Art: Marlene McCarty:
Barbara and Jennaleigh Mullens - September 26, 1992., Graphite and ballpoint pen on paper, 1995-1998
Mary Flora Bell - May 25, 1968., Graphite and ballpoint pen on paper, 1995-1998
Sylvia Likens - October, 1965., Graphite and ballpoint pen on paper, 1995-1997
Pamela Knuckles - November 30, 1984., Graphite and ballpoint pen on paper, 1995-1998
Camellia Lou - Stephanie Dawn Fries - Sept. 3, 1993., Graphite and ballpoint pen on paper, 1995
Karin Aparo - August 5, 1987., Graphite and ballpoint pen on paper, 1995-1998
courtesy of American Fine Arts Co., NYC