Helen Burkhart Mayfield (1939-1997) was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Blanco.
She was always the child more interested in the colors of the sunset and poetry than typical activities of growing up.
Helen left home following high school and moved to San Marcos to attend South West Texas State University until she met and fell in love with artist Martin Mayfield. They left college, married, and drop directly after the wedding with a pet skunk in the car to Greenwich Village.
As they were both artists, much of their time was spent drawing, painting, and creating collage work. It was in New York that Helen became an early student and devotee of interpretive dance at the Isadora Duncan school.
It was also in New York where she found her love for street performances. They were in midst of the 1960’s rise of the Fluxus movement, “the happenings and the performance pieces of Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono, and Merce Cunningham Dance Company performances organized by Robert Rauschenberg. With the Duncan school and it’s students, Helen was surely involved in the performance art scene of NY in some form, as she would later host
her own performances on the streets of Austin. In her years on the streets of Austin,she would stop buses with her dance performances fashioned in elaborate wrapped fabrics and found object creations of head pieces.
In the late 1960’s Helen and Martin would return to Austin to be near family for the birth of their daughter, Mariah. It was in Austin, Helen started the first interpretive dance troupe, the NOSO dancers and continued to create art. She taught herself piano and composed music.
Helen volunteered for art therapy at the Austin State Hospital for the Insane where she met met Eddie Arning. She recognized that his coloring book art had imagination and vision beyond the lines. She began to supply him with crayons, pastels and paper and nurtured his interests in replicating imagery in advertisements and pictures found in magazines. Helen was introduced to Dr. Alexander Sackton who began to collected and become Eddie Arning’s largest benefactor.
It was around this time that Martin and Helen started the 23rd Street Peoples Market where they sold their own artwork. They also opened “Revival- Findings & Folk Art” offering art and resale finds. Helen continues to work with ink drawings, paintings, collage, and fabric. Helen and Martin then moved to Bastrop, but Helen eventually returns to Austin for she can not stand the isolation. She divorces Martin; and by this time it becomes
evident that Helen is fighting her own demons from within asvisions, voices, and paranoia. Her drawings from this period are beautiful and elegant ink illustrations of her hauntings and her internal torture.
In the late 1980’s Helen began to live on the Austin streets and becomes well known as the artist fashioned with her handmade sarongs of layered fabric and hats. She returned to her love of collage and picked up magazines at local barber shops along the drag to create masks which were used in her own street performances. She was obsessed with various methods of divination and filled numerous notebooks with number and mysterious poetry. Helen gave her cherished momentos and drawings to her friends from the Quaker church to safely store.
Life was hard for Helen with her deteriorating mental state and living on the streets. She entered the rotating door of being arrested for her obstructing justice and stopping traffic with her street performances. Helen eventually passed away in the county jail in 1997 at the age of 58. She left behind a daughter, memories for the many people who came in contact with her and her artwork that tells Helen’s story of passion, fear, elegance, and extreme talent.