Best Mural (2004)
Paul Mewis Law Office Houston is home to many beautifully painted murals, some by noted artists. The backside of Paul Mewis's small building isn't one of them -- but this crude hodgepodge depicting the horrors -- and humor -- of the justice system is precisely the kind of soulful native art that deserves attention. On the corner of Caroline, just across from the county's criminal courts building and jail, the painting depicts Whistler's Mother settled into the electric chair. "Fruit of the Vine" has liquor and beer bottles hanging off ivy -- look closely for the marijuana leaf. Inmate "Carrazco" (presumably Fred Gomez Carrasco, who led a fatal prison siege in 1974) fights off an execution needle while another naked inmate reaches through cell bars, grasping at the eagle of freedom flapping away. Meanwhile, the Mona Lisa has gone hooker, Ma and Pa in American Gothic are packin' heat, and a cop's got a suspect pinned down. Paul Mewis is even in there, on the $100 bill. Mewis, an attorney, commissioned the mural years ago when a client referred him to the "artists" at a northside bar. He chuckles recalling how they dragged the job out for three months and pestered him for more money to buy paint. Now Mewis isn't as jovial -- the county bought the entire block from a parking company to build a plaza in its place. Mewis will get nothing for his building. "I'm less than a year away from the wrecking ball," he says with a sigh. When that happens, another piece of Houston's heritage will be dust.