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Mother's Crutch 2003

 Chimayó, NM – Orange County, CA - Seoul, Korea


On August 3, 2001, I flew from Vancouver to Toronto to visit my parents, arriving at YYZ on a red-eye. After saying good morning to my mother, sometime between 10 and 11am, she passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s. Some said that she had hung on just long enough to say good-bye to her son.

A month later, as I began my MFA studies at UC Irvine, my mother appeared in a dream – for the first and only time since. In the dream, she appeared happy and well. Oddly enough, her legs were amputated at her knees, and she was calmly and deftly balancing herself on a pair of crutches.

During my next visit to Toronto, while browsing through old photo albums, I happened upon an old photograph of my mother – working in her office, with a crutch leaning against the back wall, when she had broken her ankle. The image stayed with me, and I wanted to make work in memory of her based on this image.

Upon my return to California, I began collecting second-hand crutches from neighbouring thrift stores over the following months. I envisioned a large-scale installation with crutches filling up an entire room. When I couldn’t find enough crutches for this project, I travelled to Santuario de Chimayó, New Mexico, where it was said to house thousands of crutches left behind from believers who were miraculously cured of their illnesses upon visiting the pilgrimage site. I returned to California with a mythological narrative, though crutch-less.

In 2003, during a studio visit at UC Irvine, Harrell Fletcher suggested a quieter, ephemeral approach. Heartened by this suggestion, I created adhesive stickers of the b&w photo of my mom with her crutch, and applied them to each crutch collected, and donated the crutches back to the original thrift shops. The piece was considered complete when these crutches were obtained by the next person who needed them, and then views the image of my mother – with curiosity.


1: Original B&W photograph, circa 1970
2: Accumulating crutches in studio, UC Irvine
3: El Santuario de Chimayó, NM
4: crutches at El Santuario de Chimayó, NM
5: Image made into stickers
6: stickers attached to each crutch
7: donating the crutches back to thrift stores 
8: Javier receiving the donated crutches

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