The enigma formerly known as John Mark Karr is now a piece of art

Alexis Reich, nee John Mark Karr, may be living on the run, but his visage is front and center at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

The Conyers-born Karr, who has legally changed his name and is reportedly planning to change his sex, posed for Montreal-based photographers Carlos and Jason Sanchez four years ago at his father's Sandy Springs home. Their portrait, which deftly captures Reich's intense narcissism, is included in the museum's "New Faces" collection that opened in May.

That vanity was on display when an AJC reporter spent the day with Reich, then Karr, in 2007 -- a year after his arrest for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, a crime for which he was eventually exonerated, despite his objections.

Though every hair was in place, with an ironed polo shirt neatly tucked in to a pair of crisp khakis, Reich's primping was incessant.

"How do I look?" he asked more than once. Later, he revealed he wanted actor Johnny Depp to portray him in a film version of his life.

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While a movie remains a pipe dream, the art world has taken notice of Reich's photograph.

"In the image, Karr, the fame obsessed, and self-declared pedophile and murderer of preteen beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, stares incessantly at his own image in a gold framed mirror," wrote a Canadian art critic on the We Can't Paint blog.

"There is a sense of the phantasmagoric in Karr’s eyes, a macabre cult of self which is equally aware as it is and alive," said the critic, lauding the portrait as a "remarkable work."

The Santa Barbara museum, perhaps hoping to avoid the navel gazing an infamous celebrity like Reich might attract, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither have the Sanchez brothers.

Reich vaulted into the public spotlight almost five years ago after being arrested in Thailand -- where he was ducking child porn charges in California, since dropped -- in connection with the decade-old murder that captured the nation's imagination.

After his arrest Reich told reporters, "I loved JonBenet, and she died accidentally." Asked if he was an innocent man, he replied, "No."

Less than two weeks later, prosecutors dropped their case against Reich when his DNA failed to match the male DNA found at the scene of JonBenet's death in Boulder, Colo.

Little has been heard from Reich since June 2010, when Sandy Springs police, at the request of San Francisco authorities, served the 47-year-old ex-teacher with a restraining order on behalf of  a former student.

Samantha Spiegel, 20, produced several threatening e-mails sent to her by Reich, whom she met when she was 9-years-old. "If you deceive me, I will kill you," read one. Spiegel said Reich planned to undergo gender reassignment surgery so he can get closer to little girls.

Authorities tracked Reich to his father's following a tip from a tourist who crossed paths with Reich, dressed in androgynous  garb, in Paris. Reich told the woman he was heading home for a visit.

His current whereabouts are unknown. An e-mail address and cell phone number previously supplied by Reich are no longer active, and the phone listing at his father's residence was disconnected.

Reich left the Atlanta area in 2008 after it was rumored he was moving to Grant Park. Neighbors there let it be known he wasn't welcome.

"He knew he’d never be able to live a normal life here," his father, Wexford Karr, told the AJC in 2008.

Normalcy, however, has never seemed a priority for Reich, previously married to girls 16 and 14. He reconnected with Spiegel, a former student in his fourth grade class, online and the two were engaged to be married when she was 17, according to her attorney, Robin Sax.

Her parents intervened and she began distancing himself from Reich. In one of his last messages to Spiegel, written on April 10, Reich wrote: "If you cost me my little girls I will hunt you down and kill you."

Speigel claimed in court that her onetime fiance has started a cult that seeks to recruit young girls, dubbed "Immaculates," who look like JonBenet.

Sax, reached by the AJC Wednesday, said she's lost track of Reich but promised to provide an update after speaking with one of her private investigators who had previously tracked him.

That could prove difficult, however. Sax said Reich's "cult" had roughly 30 followers who provided him with food, money and shelter.

"There is not a day that passes that I do not think of JonBenet -- a most precious little girl who passed through my life and made the most intense impression, " he wrote in a 2007 e-mail to the AJC. "There is no price that I could pay that would be worthy for the precious life she lost. Though if I could in some way atone for such an enormous sin, I would with all my heart."

Perhaps the portrait by the Sanchez brothers will be a start. As French philosopher Albert Camus said, "A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession."

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