Virginia Beahan’s photographs tell a story that is at once demanding, joyous, surprising, and painful. In the fall of 2002, Beahan and her husband helped her 88-year-old mother, Jeanne Cadwallader, sell her house in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and moved her to their home in rural New Hampshire. In failing health, her mother’s doctors believed she would die within the coming months. She soon recovered, however, and for the first time in many decades, Beahan and her mother began to spend their days together, learning to accommodate each other’s needs and lives. Suffering from the early stages of dementia, losing her memory and her ability to process information, her mother could never be left alone. Accustomed to a busy schedule of teaching, traveling, and making photographs in places as far removed as Iceland, Cuba, Sri Lanka, and the Aeolian Islands, Beahan felt trapped by these unexpected circumstances. Turning to her camera to bring structure and familiarity to a new routine, Beahan created a remarkable document of her family as it navigated what might otherwise be heartbreaking circumstances.
Virginia Beahan (American, born 1946), Celebrating My Mother’s 90th Birthday, Lyme, NH, 2003, chromogenic development print, 20 x 24 inches, Courtesy of the artist
Beginning with portraits of her mother and daughter, Christina, Beahan soon expanded her subjects to include her husband, brother, cousins, and family friends — the people who surrounded and enriched her mother’s life. Beahan’s photographs face a difficult situation with directness and compassion, without flinching from her mother’s condition or succumbing to sentimentality. They reveal a painful transition that every family faces, yet one that is rarely shared with the outside world. Beahan captured the end of her mother’s life with openness and generosity, and a belief in the fundamental strength that binds together those we love and hold dear.
Virginia Beahan (American, born 1946), My Mother in Black, Lyme, NH, 2006, chromogenic development print, 20 x 24 inches, Courtesy of the artist
Virginia Beahan (American, born 1946), Christina and Gram on Thanksgiving, Lyme, NH, 2004, chromogenic development print, 20 x 24 inches, Courtesy of the artist
Virginia Beahan (American, born 1946), First Day of Spring, Lyme, NH, 2005, chromogenic development print, 20 x 24 inches, Courtesy of the artist
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Virginia Beahan (American, born Philadelphia, 1946) received a BA in English from Pennsylvania State University and an MFA in Photography from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University. She is Senior Lecturer in Studio Art at Dartmouth College, and has taught photography at Harvard University, Massachusetts College of Art, Wellesley College, and the Rhode Island School of Design. Beahan’s work is included in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum; and Whitney Museum of American Art. Her publications include Cuba: Singing with Bright Tears (2009) and No Ordinary Land: Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee (1998). In 1993, she received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Photography. Beahan lives with her husband Michael in Lyme Center, New Hampshire.
A Riley Contemporary Artists Project Gallery Exhibition
February 11, 2017 - May 7, 2017
Joslyn Art Museum Omaha, Nebraska
FRAMING SPECIFICATIONS AND ADVICE
Standard Profile: 101 and 106
Type: Standard Gallery Frame
Wood & Finish: maple wood frame with pickled white finish
Purchasing Option: joined wood frame
Custom frame strainer: 3/4" wood frame strainer
Custom frame acrylic: 1/8" regular acrylic cut to size
Custom frame backing board: 1/4" archival coroplast cut to size
Framing Advice: fitting gallery frames