Helena Becker grew up on the border between Schaan and Vaduz in Liechtenstein. She went to the usual schools and after a preparatory arts course she did an arts & crafts teaching degree. She had various jobs, got married and had two children. For many years she was a housewife and always made art. After her divorce, she took up her academic profession and now teaches visual art. Mostly she works to serve what life has entrusted to her. This includes artistic activity. She very much loves her house and the surrounding area. It means a lot of work, but it also brings her a lot of joy. Her children, now grown up, are studying in Zurich and Vienna. Since the house is too big on her own, she currently shares it with two students – which works out quite well. She likes reading to relax. Hiking also makes her happy. Helena Becker is 58 years old.
Where and how did you grow up?
I grew up with my three sisters on a farm bordering Vaduz and Schaan. With lots of cattle, nature, duties and freedom. The land on which the house stands was originally in Schaan, but was assigned to the municipality of Vaduz in 1970. My childhood was ‘shaped by Schaan’. The border reallocation still divides me today.
My childhood was shaped by the seasons, my places were the stable, fields, swimming pool and mountains. The exploration area was large, my three sisters and I were free, there were the Rüfe, the Rhine and the meadows.
Could you describe your professional background?
After school I was somewhat disoriented, I started an apprenticeship, which then I dropped out of. Hansjörg, who was already then my sister’s boyfriend, saw that I was able to express myself creatively and that I was handy. He advised me to do an arts & crafts teaching degree. That is what I did and today I make a living from teaching. I came into contact with art and through many trips to Italy I became attuned to culture. At twenty years old I knew the Liechtenstein art scene and was somehow part of it, was accepted. Painting was the means by which I tried to explain the world to myself. It helped me again and again to process my thoughts and to explore life. I got answers that made sense to me. That’s why I was also interested in what was being exhibited in Liechtenstein. Artists were interesting people for me – scientists and ambassadors.
Then came the time of marriage and raising children. I was immersed in being a housewife and mother.
With time there was space for art again, for things that needed to be said and my first exhibitions.
An ‘amour fou’ put an end to that way of life.
After my divorce I had to reorient myself, earn money. People who became friends helped me along and supported me.
Were there certain events or stations that were formative for your career?
Working in nature and with animals certainly shaped me. We had to help out and from that came a sense of responsibility. My father always found a solution when something didn’t work, he was very practical and creative. That showed me there is always a way, you have to try.
As a person I wanted to do everything right, already as a child I really wanted to understand the world, I was very searching and inquiring. So the stories of Jesus that Father Schnüringer told us were a revelation. He had us paint pictures of them in class. I became absorbed in that world which had a great impact on me.
At that time I lived in a magical world, tried to explain everything I didn’t understand that way. I needed this magical world for a very long time and still need it a little today.
Has your environment supported you in your career?
Yes, I could list a few people, but certainly my sisters and Hansjörg Quaderer. Amazingly in every phase there were people who supported me. Thank you.
What are your current activities?
Teaching and preparing for the next Liechtenstein Art Trienniale.
Does what you are currently doing fulfil you?
Yes, my job gives me the freedom to create. What I teach is predetermined but the ‘how’ is mine. The exchange with the students makes me happy.
Art allows me to sink into my world, to explore my world view, to redefine it.
Do you think that you yourself have an influence on whether your activities are fulfilling?
If I take myself seriously in what I do and am fully involved, the activity becomes fulfilling.
Set goals, stay flexible, change strategies, keep the tried and tested, be happy when it works.
What or who inspires you in everyday life?
Current affairs, culture, nature, literature and images.
What or who gives you strength and energy in everyday life?
House and garden, silence, a book, encounters with people and of course my friends.
There are ‘magic moments’ when everything seems to fit. Moments that fulfil, inspire and give strength. Moments that confirm that the effort is worthwhile and that what you do is meaningful and valuable. Have you already experienced such moments in relation to your own activities?
This varies; sometimes a magical thought precedes the moment of achieving a desired goal. For example, if I do not eat meat on Friday, there won’t be worms in my fruit.
Such a magical moment can resemble a revelation and bring deep understanding. For example, when my daughter was very sick, we did not know if she would get well again. I prayed to Mary. Then I felt a peace within me in the form of light and received the message that everything would be fine.
Everything can change in magical moments, feelings can transform, dissolve. This can also be called grace. Once I had big problems with a person near me – it was growing. Somehow there was no solution. All my thoughts revolved around it. After another incident with the person – we were facing each other – it happened that I really perceived him, understood his life, everything that had made him act that way. From this understanding hatred was transformed into love, anyway the negativity dissolved. After that we got along. It was a wonderful, strong, extraordinary moment that left me awestruck.
I experienced a strong magical nature moment on a trip home. It was still dark although morning was about to break. Then just before it began to dawn the earth glowed with an indescribable fluorescent light as if it was made of it.
Do you actively do something for it, so that such ‘magic’ moments can happen?
When I work creatively I make space for it. Mindfulness training and by staying ‘noisy’. ‘I foolishly forgot the magic things!’ These moments are gifts.
Are there moments when you doubt what you are doing?
Of course, there are such moments. In these moments I think, what’s the use of it all, who am I?
But then I say to myself: Keep going.
In retrospect, can you find something positive in difficult moments?
Yes… hoping to work off my karma.
Age makes everything easier, I have by now a perspective of experiences and things overcome.
Is there anything you would do differently in retrospect?
Many things… some tracks are set too early.
I would have liked to have more time for my children and less stress with life. Why, because you can’t get time back. Now I live and decide more consciously what I do with my remaining time.
Do you want to contribute to society with your activities?
Would be nice if it did.
Is the recognition of other people or the public important to you?
Not really, I was never ambitious. As a child I perhaps won too often, I could do many things, I succeeded in almost everything. Like many children, I only wanted my father’s recognition.
Today when I have a show or create something, it should meet my standards for art, for my work.
In good moments I am surprised myself by what is created under my hand. This is like a dialogue with the universe, this is the recognition from which I feed. These moments of wonder at what is happening, what is happening to me or through me.
In general I don’t want to have to think I could have done that better. That makes me vulnerable. Of course I’m also happy about recognition from the outside.
How well can you live from what you do professionally?
At the moment I’m living well, I don’t have to worry about anything, that’s relaxing.
The downside is that there is hardly any time left for my artistic activities.
Is there something that is particularly occupying you at the moment?
All of digitization, what it’s doing to us humans, where it will take the world.
Sometimes growing old worries me.
Is there something you would like to (increasingly) spend time on in the future?
With mindfulness, art and magic.
What are you most grateful for in life?
For the people I have met along the way and the love.
This interview is part of the project ‘Magic Moments’ by Kunstverein Schichtwechsel, in which people are interviewed about their careers, activities and their magical as well as difficult moments.
Curated by Stefani Andersen and Laura Hilti, Kunstverein Schichtwechsel.
Supported by Kulturstiftung Liechtenstein and Stiftung Fürstl. Kommerzienrat Guido Feger.
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