ART: If You Can’t Keep Your Baby, We Can

7:14 pm. Welcome to Arkansas. Alex bought one of those white-trash lighters that have a half-naked guy on it, wearing ripped up jeans.

1:10 am. Mississippi state line.

sugar never was so sweet. day four.

8:30 am. I do believe this was the earliest we ever got up in a motel room, but it had to be done. This was Mississippi, and there’s nothing like waking up in the Delta for the first time in your life.

Alex collected the breakfast bagels and coffee, Beth was doing Yoga, and meanwhile I was busy being paralyzed with the anticipation of seeing the land where the blues began. I guess if you woke up one morning and knew you were going to fall in love for life that day, you’d feel just about the same. How could you even turn a door handle or squeeze toothpaste on your toothbrush without your heart thumping up in your mouth?
Outside, the humidity hung heavy in the air, and the breeze smelled sweet and warm. We drove over a small, country road with an overcast, yellow sky above us just aching to let loose. The road was awkwardly patched-up and flooded on either side by deep green. Whole trees were smothered by vines, creating strange landscapes that looked like science fiction.
“One of these nights, you’re sure gonna love me right
And I’ll come and I’m gonna be your baby
All the rest of my life. . .”
Coahoma.
It seemed to be election time. The roadsides were cluttered with little colorful signs, demanding you vote for a whole array of bizarre governmental positions.” Re-elect Scotty Meredith – Coroner”, “Elect Alfonzo Buford – Constable Northern District”, “Elect Ed Seals – Coahoma County Superintendent of Education”, “Re-elect Rybolt – Constable”, “Please elect Carolyn Parham – Tax Assessor Collector”.
“If you can’t keep your baby, we can” – billboard.

(Excerpted from Devil Got Religion. Mercedes Helnwein. (c) 2004)

Influenced by the blues and a lifelong obsession to see places with names like Arkansas and Mississippi, critically acclaimed Los Angeles-based Austrian artist Mercedes Helnwein has birthed such works as America Motel Project and a body of drawings described as “photo-realistic,” “lucid fairy-tales,” “strikingly bizarre,” “haunting,” “southern Gothic,” “evocative” and “unexpected.”

Whistling Past the Graveyard featuring new works by Mercedes Helnwein and hosted by Jason Lee opens at the Merry Karnowski Gallery in Los Angeles on August 30.
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