Crossing Time and Country
An Installation by Olivia Beens
“Imagine the hallway as a railroad car; hear the sound of the wheels moving along the rails.”
The scroll was painted on a cross-country journey after eye surgery on Amtrak from New York to Maricopa,
Arizona and mounted on a residency in the Red Cabin at Platte Clove, New York.
In spring 2012 when my eye doctor told me that I needed to have immediate eye surgery and that I would not be able to fly for three months alarm bells when off in my mind. My mother was frail and living alone in Arizona. Soon after my surgery I got a call late at night saying that my mother had fallen and was taken to the Emergency Room. She had broken her hip. I spoke to her Dr who told me that they could place a rod into her femur but the chances of her surviving the surgery were not good and even with the repair she would never be able to walk again. It would simply enable her caretakers to move her around more easily. Yes, they could make her comfortable. My son flew out immediately to access the situation and I hopped on Amtrak and arrived three days later. During the journey I painted this scroll as the scenery flashed by and I mentally prepared myself for the unknown that lay ahead. I arrived in Maricopa, Arizona where my son picked me up. We went directly to the hospice unit where my mother had been admitted. She was still cognizant of her surroundings but extremely confused, anxious and highly sedated. After conferring with her team for doctors and nurses, we decided that surgery was out of the question.
Five and one half months later on October 3, 2012 my mother
Jaroslava Maria Keclikova aka (Beens) aka (Cohick) aka (Camerer) passed away.
My mother was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1923. She kept most of these photographs in a red box in the closet of her bedroom. As a child I would sneak into her room, open the box when she was out to study the photographs in an effort to discover who my mother really was and I suppose, to find out who I was. Our relationship was intense, complicated and difficult but as a child I journeyed with her from my birth country Holland to Portugal and subsequently to America. These photographs that I share with you document my mother’s journey through time.
They are frames from a movie, views from a train, a story that unfolds over time.
I found a stack of folded copy paper with words handwritten in my mother’s bedside drawer when I was moving her belongings. She loved to read the newspaper in bed every morning. It was after her husband passed away and she was in her early 80’s that mother asked me to purchase a Czech/English dictionary for her. I did and she created these lists of words to explore. Her English was good but she wanted to understand better what she read and she was curious about the relationship of words and their meanings in Czech. She kept a record of every word she looked up. Her handwriting was unique; as a child she was naturally left-handed but forced to use her right hand. This was very traumatic for her and she often spoke of it. I sewed the pages together creating an accordion book of words in English and Czech.
There’s more to this story as you can imagine……..and, I’ll tell it if you are interested.