Since the 1930s, the friendly glow of a neon motel "vacancy" sign has signaled a long-anticipated break for the road-weary motorist. The essential aim of the motel is to provide convenient, comfortable and affordable accommodation for exhausted travelers. Yet despite their image as places of wholesome reliability, run by proprietors of strong moral fiber--with a courtesy bible in each room--motels have earned a reputation as the venue of choice for people seeking a discreet rendezvous. With advertisements declaring the availability of "hourly rates," J. Edgar Hoover, in 1940, labeled motels as "dens of vice and corruption."
In Postcard Fictions, Andrew Valko captures this seamier side of motel life in vivid detail. In this series of paintings, hyperrealistic images of motels glow and beckon eerily from the side of the highway. In Valko's motel rooms, people are engaged in various solitary activities: a scantily clad woman watches TV while her companion sleeps; another woman takes nude pictures of herself, scattering polaroids all over the bed; still another sits in her lingerie with her back to the viewer as she watches Snow White on the TV. A disturbing psychological undercurrent inhabits Valko's motels both inside and out.
The alienation and loneliness of Valko's paintings is captured strikingly in the accompanying short story by Michelle Berry. Known for her complex psychological narratives, Berry weaves a disturbing tale of two motel inhabitants that captures the unsettling events of life at the side of the highway. (2001)