Monsters and Dust

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Juan Carlos Ramírez-Abadía was also called Chupeta, which means lollipop. The improbably round silhouette of his head in his mugshot makes the origin of this nickname clear. His face is strangely wide, his skin tight, his expression frozen in a placid gaze. Thick scars divide his scalp across the top and around the back, violent artifacts incongruent with his well-tailored clothing and neatly trimmed hair. A look at earlier photos shows that he surgically exaggerated his naturally symmetrical features, tightening his eyes in an upward slant, augmenting his chin and cheekbones, expanding his bone structure horizontally. The result is creepy and compelling; his face smiling and open like the Cheshire Cat. 

Chupeta’s facial transformation is remarkable because his narcissism kept him from making fundamental changes to his features. Instead, he accentuated what he had, tweaking and refining himself with each surgery. His face is a paradox because the practical function of his surgeries—to change his identity—clashed with his intense self-obsession. Like the plaster casts of L’Inconnue, Chupetas face drifted away from its original form by the slow accretion of details resulting from obsessive reproduction. And like L’Inconnue, he became a living specter, but one of a more menacing sort.