2021 Update: “MODESTO LOVER’S” Dr. George Hill Hodel’s Personal “Black Dahlia”Rorschach-More Murder As A Fine Art Thoughtprints

Los Angeles

(Updated from July 11, 2009 blog)

Artist Fernando Modesto Confirms George Hodel Patronage  

 “By 1990, Hodel had bought more than a thousand of his erotic paintings spilled with vulvas, phalluses, and mouths dripping with blood.”    
                                                                                     Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS/Newsbreak
Excerpt from “Portrait of the artist as an oddball”     July 10 2009

Manila, Philippines, July 10, 2009

In an interview with Kristine Servando of the abs-cbnNEWS.com. entitled, A portrait of the artist as an oddball, Dr. George Hodel was described as Modesto’s,” biggest fan and most avid patron,”  Acknowledging Hodel’s decades-old financial support by purchasing many of the artist’s early works, Modesto informed the reporter:

“At least he [Dr. Hodel] supported my career. So I could support my parents.”

(From 1970 to 1987, Dr. George Hodel, then a Manila resident, collected over 1600 original Modesto drawings and paintings.)
I quote (in bold) from Kristine Servando’s interview where she addresses the George Hodel/Fernando Modesto connection:

“Biggest Fan”

The early part of his career (when he was in his 20s to his 30s) was spent painting what he calls “nasty pictures” or a vast erotica collection.
His biggest fan and most avid patron was Dr. George Hodel, a prime suspect in the sensational murder of 1940s Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Short or “The Black Dahlia.” Hodel saw Modesto’s paintings at a 1970 exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and loved them.
By 1990, Hodel had bought more than a thousand of his erotic paintings spilled with vulvas, phalluses, and mouths dripping with blood. Psychiatrists and crime profilers had a field day with that.
“Yeah, I’m trying to hide that,” Modesto said a bit sheepishly, though Hodel’s alleged involvement in the Black Dahlia murder was never proven. “At least, he supported my career. So I could support my parents.”
Dr. Hodel even hired Modesto to make graphs for his medical papers. To this day, Modesto said, Hodel never explained why he liked the paintings so much.”
In, Black Dahlia Avenger, Chapter 19, “The Final Connection Man Ray Thoughtprints, I discuss Fernando Modesto’s relationship with my father, and focus on one of his erotic drawings from 1986 which I entitled, “MODESTO’S LOVERS.”

“Modesto Lovers” 1986
 As most readers of BDA know, it is my strong conviction that my father, a close friend, and admirer of the famous surrealist, Man Ray, staged the Elizabeth Short crime scene as an homage and tribute to his guru-master and fellow Dadaist, Man Ray. How?
By using several of Man Ray’s artworks as his “inspiration.”  I offer two of Man Ray’s most famous pieces, The Lovers and The Minotaur, both created in the mid-1930s, as “Peoples Exhibits 1 & 2”
For those interested in an in-depth review of the Surrealist connections I would refer you to Chapter 19.
In 1986 or 1987 my father and his wife, June Hodel, traveled from Manila to Paris, France where George Hodel hand-delivered to Juliet Man Ray a copy of “Modesto’s Lovers.” (Juliet’s husband and George’s friend and “surrealist guru” had died a decade earlier, in 1976.)
Modesto’s Lovers in comparison to Man Ray’s original Lovers
For now, I will limit my discussion to the Fernando Modesto drawing as discussed in BDA, Chapter 19, page 244-45 where I asked the question:
“Did George Hodel specifically commission this drawing and provide the artist with all of the details to be included, or did Modesto merely use his own creative energies and imagination, independent of his patron? The answer may be hidden in the work itself and what it appears to represent. First, the work is a form of flattery: it’s an imitation of Man Ray’s “lover’s lips” that extend across the horizon. However, unlike the Man Ray work, the lips in the Modesto are not full red, and the bottom lip is only partially covered. Also, the irregularity of the bottom line in the Modesto suggests dripping blood rather than lipstick. And directly above the lips are three human phalluses. To the left of the lips is a blue canal the shape of a vagina, above which a squadron of nine yellow and ten blue oval-shaped objects seem to be flying, each with its own trailing sperm-like tail. Do the two different colors represent George Hodel and Fred Sexton? These were some of the questions I asked myself when I looked at this painting again in the context of what I had just discovered. I am also convinced that my father’s trip to Paris was no simple visit but a pilgrimage, a formal presentation of Modesto’s Lovers to Juliet Man Ray to honor the memory of her late husband and Father’s friendship with him.
In and of itself, the Modesto painting is at best tangential to the case I’m building. But, Modesto’s Lovers actually becomes an integral part of the suspect/psychiatrist’s own Rorschach blot, revealing his personality and emotions…
The images below show a comparison of the crime scene photographs of Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short to 1935 surrealist photographs by Man Ray which depict his LOVERS in combination with a woman’s bisected body and his MINOTAURE again, showing a woman’s bisected body, with arms posed above her head, the elbows bent at 90′ angles, just as the killer has posed them at the crime scene.

Man Ray Les Amoureux (The Lovers) and Man Ray Minotaure

Below: Elizabeth Short body posed at vacant lot (1947)
In the months preceding my father’s death (May 1999) having returned to the United States, it was his plan to market and sell his vast Modesto Collection. (Over 1600 separate original drawings/paintings)
To that end, he began to prepare a  high-gloss catalog describing the artist’s skills and talents. This catalog copy was not comprised of Modesto’s interpretations of his own art, but rather those of his patron, a pioneer in marketing, a businessman, and a psychiatrist. I quote from excerpts of father’s original brochure writings which interpret and describe his protege’s works:


By Dr. George Hodel

(Father, describing Modesto’s erotica from the 70s)
“They seem to have several levels of meaning. One level appears to reflect the artist’s views on the universality of the erotic drive, which impels all creatures and unites them in a cosmic identity”
(Father, describing Modesto’s admiration of Man Ray)
“Homage to Man Ray. Modesto has always greatly admired and has been inspired by, the work of Man Ray. He has collected many books on Man Ray, and often looks at these photos, paintings, and sculptures.”
(Author Note– To my layman’s ear, it sounds like we have some big-time “transference” here. I believe what we are hearing is not so much “the artist’s views” but rather those of his patron – George Hodel. It is Dr. Hodel  who believes in “the universality of the erotic drive and is greatly inspired by the works of Man Ray.”

Fernando Modesto –  Early Erotica

 (From GHH collection of 1600 sketches/paintings. Some of these have never been publicly displayed and I include both erotic and non-erotica from his collection.)


Above seven Modesto drawings are from GHH collection to my knowledge six of them have never been shown publicly.

Photos and links to the artist, FERNANDO MODESTO:

Fernando Modesto 

Early photo of Fernando Modesto with Pablo Picasso (late Sixties/early Seventies?)
 Fernando Modesto Bio/Awards –  Kulay-Diwa Gallery of Philippine Contemporary Art


Fernando Modesto Facebook 

April 29, 2018

Delight in Fernando Modesto’s latest one-man show

Art critic and book author Cid Reyes mentioned this whimsical side of
Modesto in his review of the artist’s work: “Since Fernando Modesto burst in the art scene in 1977, his one abiding quality has been irreverence, but irreverence laced with zaniness and hilarity.”
Fernando Modesto spent his formative years at the College of Fine Arts in the University of Sto. Tomas and went on further studies at Central St. Martin’s School of Art and Design in London on a scholarship grant by the British Council. He has also been awarded the 13 Artists Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and won the top prize for printmaking by the Art Association of the Philippines in 1988. His works have been exhibited extensively internationally since the 1970s.
“Bliss From Bygone Days” will run from May 2 until May 18 at Globe Art Gallery, The Globe Tower, 32nd corner 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.


  1.  jasong on July 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Elizabeth Short’s body destroyed to create a “greatest hits” of surrealism?
    I haven’t read the Nelson/Bayliss book Exquisite Corpse (yet) but does it point out the Magritte angle as well? Magritte of course depicted vaginas as mouths (most famously in “Le Viol”). The section of Elizabeth’s thigh and the grass inserted into her body (if that fact is true) made that statement — eating meat and vegetable.
    If, in an alternate universe, it wasn’t your father who did this horrible deed he certainly would’ve known who did (and probably revealed it later in life) or made it his life’s work to find out.

    •  Steve Hodel on April 3, 2019 at 7:56 pm

      Jasong: The three surrealists that “acknowledged” George Hodel’s “masterpiece” were Duchamp, Copley, and Man Ray. At least so far. Not sure about others? I do not believe the grass inserted is accurate? At least I’ve never seen it in any crime scene photograph. The section of flesh cut from her left thigh, a rose tattoo, yes that is accurate. It was my father and his surgical skill which was required to perform the “hemicorpectomy.” skh

  2.  Steve Hodel on July 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Magritte is mentioned in the Nelson/Bayliss book, however, as I recall it is in reference to his depiction of “sectioning” of female bodies. The book also includes a comparison of the section of left thigh cut out from victim Short’s body to an identical cut in Salvadore Dali’s MINOTAURE (1936). Nowhere in any official report have I found any mention of “grass” being inserted in the mouth or anywhere else. As far as I am aware, that is myth and fiction.

  3.  Karen Conrad on July 20, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Well over a thousand pieces? I own one good piece of art myself, and it pretty much occupies a whole wall in the one room! Even a handful of “smaller” works, properly displayed, takes up a bit of room. He must have stored most of these somewhere while in the Philippines- did he then bring them or just some when he moved away again? Were there many left when you were there in Hawaii helping June (at the very beginning of this extraordinary journey)- or had he sold most, I wonder? He could justify the interest as a professional one, given what you’ve discovered about his teaching days. That would be a lot of artwork to unload at one time if he needed to do so quickly…
    BTW, for anyone who hasn’t picked up the Exquisite Corpse book yet, it does go far in “strengthening” Steve’s argument by making clear the connections between George Hodel and the surrealist art movement and some of the characters involved, and, especially some very specific works as possible “models” for what was done to Elizabeth Short. Quite eerie. Also, very, very explicit and difficult to view. The casual reader is forewarned!

    •  Steve Hodel on April 3, 2019 at 7:52 pm

      Karen C: These were small individual unmounted drawings. He had them shipped after he relocated to San Francisco in 1990. After his death June had me archive the drawings individually by taking a photo of each one, which took some time. He had almost ALL of them at that time. Have no idea where they or June is now? SF? Japan? Yes, I’m sure he had additional storage items in Manila but have no idea where or what? Steve

  4.  Steve Hodel on July 20, 2009 at 9:04 am

    In the months following my father’s death (May 16, 1999) I visited June on a regular basis. In an effort for her to try and maintain some “continuity”, she asked me to help her catalog all of his Modesto collection by videotaping each numbered drawing. At that time the entire collection was intact and father had just begun preparing a sales brochure for marketing. I doubt anything additional has been done to date?

  5.  Floyd Dehanne on December 21, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Mr Hodel are you aware of Modestos latest exhibition and do you think this is cashing in on the success of your book? (Follow URL)

    •  Steve Hodel on April 3, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      Floyd D: No, was not aware of his exhibition. Is there a website link or address to view it? Thanks, Steve

  6.  Steve Hodel on December 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

    FD: No, not aware of it. Can you resend me the link. For some reason it did not post? Thanks, Steve

  7.  Genevieve on April 3, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Any chance the pictures that are missing on your site will come back? I only just found you!

    •  Steve Hodel on April 3, 2019 at 7:45 pm

      Genevieve: Not sure on the pictures? They are attempting to, but taking a long time so? Best, Steve

Leave a Comment



  1. B Weatherby on June 20, 2021 at 10:49 pm

    I wonder if Modesto would ever share the details of his early patron and the nature of their arrangement?

    It would be interesting to find out if some of the pieces were “requests” or were partially “directed” by your father. Not sure it’s anything he’d ever share, though.

    • Steve Hodel on June 21, 2021 at 12:21 am

      B. Weatherby:

      AGREED. I just today reached out. We will see?

  2. Joakim on June 24, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    I think surrealists saw pornography in art not as smut but as an attempt to “touch the primal”,
    to reach deep within the beholder.

  3. Steve Hodel on June 24, 2021 at 2:03 pm


    Well, whatever their motive may have been, it doesn’t change the fact that many of them were extremely misogynistic and into dominating women by displaying them as objects to be victimized.

  4. Sophia on September 6, 2021 at 7:13 am

    Mr. Hodel,

    There seems to be resemblance between the lips in Modesto’s “Lovers” and the lips of the woman in the still-unidentified photo that you suspected was of the Black Dahlia.

    The woman is definitely not Elizabeth Short – Short had a long face with strong bone structure, a long chin and deep hollows beneath her cheek bones. The woman in the photo has a roundish face and even with the foreshortening pose, clearly has a small, almost receding chin.

    And the tensed neck muscles indicate that she is alive and holding the pose….

    The closed eyes and the pose of the arms would however resonate with the Dahlia “crime scene” photos.

    She could very well be deliberately posed to resemble the Short corpse’s staged attitude.

    Her dark lipstick is a bit smeared – and the Modesto lips are definitely different from Lee Miller’s sharp-cornered, extremely curvy one in the Ray original. They look like the lips in the photo…

    • Steve Hodel on September 6, 2021 at 10:36 am

      With a facial recognition of “95-97% positive” from one of the nation’s top laboratories, I am not able to “eliminate” the photo as being that of Elizabeth Short. That said, it really matters not, since law enforcement in their written reports that “George Hodel knew and dated Short.” And yes, the posing of her body (dead or alive?) does most certainly suggest and add a surrealist suggestion to the photograph.

  5. GypGyp on May 3, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    Hi, I’m curious whether anyone knows if chess pieces are significant to Hodel or the Dahlia murder? I’m currently watching the tv series abt Fauna and notice recurring images of these really unique chess pieces, that (in the show) belong to George. I couldn’t help but notice that there’s an exactly identical chess set in the bottom lefthand side of the Man Ray ‘Lovers’ piece.

    Wouldn’t that mean something, toward your theory about Dahlia potentially being an artist homage, if George either bought an identical set for himself OR if the set photographed in the piece WAS HIS SET, then maybe Dahlia was meant to be an homage TO Man Ray’s homage of their friendship?

    In the show, George has an intern of sorts, who appears to be trying to win his approval, by creating artworks and commiting acts for him. The “intern” takes one of the these chess pieces that George owns and is playing him with. The game itself feels significant to their deceit.
    My theory is that maybe the game was significant to Man Ray and George, as well? And like in the game, the object is to continue to “one up” one another, as they continue to play both the chess game and the death games.

    Thoughts? 💭

    • Steve Hodel on May 4, 2022 at 10:54 am

      Gyp Gyp:
      The fictional television series, I Am the Night was just that pure fiction. I had no involvement in the production of the series and was unaware of it until the trailer appeared just before airing. I have not seen the series other than the promo piece. There was no “secret room” as depicted on the show.
      No, George Hodel was not into chess and that was all fantasy. It was their own spinoff on my crime signatures, “Murder As a Fine Art” as depicted in my writings. My father’s obsession with Surrealism and his crime signature of posing victims to represent art from his good friend Man Ray’s artworks.
      I never saw my father play or ever mention chess.

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