MERCEDES HELNWEIN NO WAY HOME explores the complete range of her dynamic figurative work from film stills to large-scale oil pastel portraits and from theatrical groups of individuals to the isolated person. Shana Nys Dambrot in her essay states, “Helnwein is first and still primarily known for her operatic, large-scale portraits. Heroic, silent monuments to slight imperfection and psychological projection, these arresting, anti-iconic portraits are unsettling and wry. They exercise an assertive psychological power that perpetrates a kind of memory-seduction of the viewer; and quite aside from the pleasing proportions, evocative line and color, and incisive maxi-minimalism of her visual style, that primal level of engagement is a huge part of the impact of the work.” And Mercedes comments, “There's a lot of psychological content. I don't know what to say really to explain it. In my head there must be crevices where this is coming from and reasons why it makes sense, but I'm not always told about these. All my visual work is loaded with plots -- I just don't know them all in detail. People often come up with what's going on in a particular work. I love that this happens. The more stories something inspires the better.”

About the artist
All my work whether literary or visual is probably attached to America by an umbilical cord.

I can blame this partially on various influences that hit me in my early teens, amongst them: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Delta blues, Robert Crumb’s sketchbooks, Tom Waits, Bukowski, Steinbeck and John Register paintings. These artists thoroughly cared for me growing up and baby-sat me through a modern-day culture that didn’t do anything for me. I was by no means ONLY influenced by American culture -- I love Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, Rimbaud, Dostoevsky and Dickens, etc. -- but I’m always drawn back to this simultaneously idyllic and dark universe, whether that’s a long gone age of pies cooling in windows, or the vast array of losers that crawl its streets, bars and strip malls. Even the banal life-styles stored safely in between the top and the bottom of this country interest me -- maybe because I refuse to believe that there isn’t something unbearably weird hidden within the fat layers of what is “normal.”

There is so much space in this country, so many cultures and so many crevices for impossible things to be happening, and maybe because I am European all those minute details seem like Disneyland to me. I’m fascinated with Jesus and the Devil, and the raging battle that they are having all across the middle of the country. I love the small ghost towns in the South, I like the wastelands, the abandoned buildings, the bizarre signs and individuals living their lives in ways I’ve never encountered.

I think the temptation to be good is a dilemma that exists in some of those towns, pawnshops, living rooms and churches. Whatever that struggle is.

I’m not dictating what my drawings mean, but for me personally, there is no doubt that the DNA of my work comes from some weird American true story.

About the author
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator and author based in Los Angeles. She is currently LA Editor for WhiteHot Magazine, Contributing Editor for Art Ltd., Art Editor for VS. Magazine, a featured calendar writer and arts blogger at the LA Weekly, a contributing writer for Flaunt Magazine and Bluecanvas, and a journalist at KCET’s transmedia culture program, Artbound. Formerly Managing Editor at and Art + Books Editor at LA CANVAS, her other publications have included Modern Painters, Art Review, Artweek, ARTnews, the Believer, tema celeste, Angeleno, Art Asia Pacific, Coagula, and Juxtapoz. She is also published in a number of exhibition catalogues and artist-monographs, curates a handful of gallery exhibitions each year, and speaks in public with alarming frequency. A full account of her activities is sometimes updated at

Technical specifications

  • Hardcover - Cloth with paper dust jacket
  • 11.25 x 11.25" (28.6 x 28.6 cm)
  • 96 pages
  • 157gsm Japanese matte paper with spot varnished images
  • 72 color and B/W plates
  • Essay by Shana Nys Dambrot
  • Limited edition of 1,000
  • ISBN 978-1-937222-27-7
  • Release date: September 2013
  • Designed by PEDERSEN projects
  • $45.00
  • Sold out

Please contact us at for international shipping charges

Free domestic shipping