Name: Mercedes Helnwein, born in 1979 in Vienna, is an Artist living in Los Angeles and Ireland
Mercedes Helnwein was 6 years old when she moved away from Vienna with her family. She spent the following years living with her parents and three brothers at the Castle Burgbrohl in the Eiffel; the Helnweins then moved to the county of Tipperary in Ireland, where they acquired a castle. Today, Mercedes primarily lives in Downtown Los Angeles. It is in her studio in Chinatown that she produces most of her work.
As the daughter of a famous painter, Mercedes inherited a lot of talent, but she still had to find her own path and artistic language. She described her upbringing as very liberal and enjoyed a great deal of freedom during her childhood. Her parents encouraged everything creative and an artistic atmosphere always prevailed in the Helnweins’ household. As a child, she was also able to go visit her father at his studio to watch him work anytime she wanted.
Though she always had a crayon and scratch paper on hand, Mercedes originally wanted to become an author instead of an artist. At the age of 13, she drew the comic “Men fight back” for the German magazine EMMA. Very soon, she realized that her drawings and works would prove to be popular.
She started focusing more on the outside and started showing the works that she didn’t want to create just for herself. She was soon referred to as a “Rising Star”. This was in part due to the fact that art-tycoon Damien Hirst purchased her complete exhibition “Whistling Past the Graveyard” in the “A Gallery” in 2010. Since then, she has been a prominent figure in the art market and many famous Hollywood stars are now collecting her works.
Something mysterious always emanates from her images. The artist portrays women as strong instead of weak; they often appear ominous and difficult to classify. Her models are almost always wearing Vintage clothes. Old things, clothes, cars, and furnishings generally inspire her.
When were you last in Vienna? Last Summer.
Where do you go first, when you visit Vienna? A traditional coffee house.
Do you visit the museums in the city? I try to go to as many museums as possible, since Vienna has so many great ones. But the one I always go see whenever I’m in Vienna is the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
You left Vienna when you were 6 years old. Did you like the Prater when you were a child? I did go a few times. I mainly remember the ghost ride.
Was it hard for you to leave the town of your childhood, what are your memories? I was pretty young when I left, so I didn’t really think very deeply about leaving.
Did you become homesick? I’m not sure if „homesick“ is the right word, but definitely nostalgic as I got older.
What is Vienna famous for? Culture.
What should Vienna save or conserve? Its old architecture.
Do you remember what Viennese dish you liked most? Germknödle!
Do some of your paintings relate to your childhood in Vienna? Most of my work is related to America. However, I did do one piece that is of my dad and his three sisters when they were kids – that one is a very Viennese image to me, and one of my favorites.
Which part of the girl your father painted once is still in you? That’s a funny question! When we posed for my dad as kids, we were not really posing as ourselves, but rather as characters to one of my dad’s images. So, I’d have to say that probably none of me as myself was ever really in one of his paintings.
Your talent is brilliant and a gift. Have you ever thought about what you would have done if you were not that talented? Which profession would have been an option? All my interests lie in the creative fields, so that is a very hard question to answer! Although, I’ve always day dreamed about creating the perfect school with amazing arts and music options.
Would you like to do an exhibition here in town? Absolutely. I’d love to exhibit in Vienna. Besides being my birth town, it has such an incredibly rich cultural history – why would I not want to exhibit there?
What books are important to you? East of Eden by Steinbeck, Ham on Rye by Bukowski, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, It by Stephen King, The Bonfire of Vanities by Tom Wolfe, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo... Too many to mention...
Do you have an all time favorite film? Hard to pick an all-time favorite, but some that I like a lot are: Amelie, Rushmore, Superbad, Little Miss Sunshine, Being John Malkovich, Oh Brother Where Art Thou?
What music is in your daily playlist? Currently my most listened to bands are: the Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys, and A Tribe Called Quest.
What do you remember best, when you think of your childhood here in Vienna? Our apartment. We had this beautiful, huge old-fashioned apartment – my dad had his studio in there, and I remember going into his studio and hanging out with him while he painted. He would always explain what he was doing and show me things. I loved to take out all of his pencils and work tools and then re-arrange them all very neatly in a different system.
I also remember going to the park with my mom and playing in the sandbox for hours, and then drinking apple juice in the cafe there.
I really loved my time in Vienna as a child.
When do you plan to visit Vienna the next time? In the summer.