‘Fixing the Shadow’

Artist sheds light on family dementia in ‘Portraits from Home’ exhibit at Joslyn Art Museum

If photography is the “art of fixing the shadow,” then Virginia Beahan’s photographic series Portraits from Home represents her approach to freezing those poetic and fleeting moments of family life. Selections from this “album” are on view in the recently-opened Riley CAP Gallery exhibition at Joslyn Art Museum.

Beahan is recognized primarily for her large format land- and urbanscape photographs in such far-flung locales as Iceland, Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her images, generally devoid of people, nonetheless communicate the impact of human presence on the environment or how a city manifests a culture’s distinctive history and values.


In 2002, Beahan’s elderly mother, Jeanne Cadwallader, came to live with her daughter and her family in rural New Hampshire after the memory losses and functional impairments associated with dementia became a threat to her independence.

Her travels curtailed by her new role as caregiver, Beahan returned for the next five years to an informed version of the casual family photographs she took in her youth. Images range from intimate portraits of her mother enjoying the warming rays of the sun to shots of Beahan’s flower and vegetable gardens.

The resulting series is not a portrait of dementia and the toll it can take on an individual, family or community. It is, like much of the artist’s work, about how a moment fixed by light can bring hidden resonances from the shadows.


On March 30, Beahan will visit Joslyn to join chief curator Toby Jurovics in a conversation about her work. This free program takes place at 6:30pm in the Abbott Lecture Hall.

Virginia Beahan runs through May 7, 2017, in the Riley CAP Gallery at Joslyn Art Museum. There is no admission fee for this show. The museum is located at 2200 Dodge Street. For further information, visit www.joslyn.org or call 402/342-3300.

Category: Art

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