Alexander Helmintoller resides in California, but calls upon their family’s extensive history of immigration and displacement in order to explore broader themes through creating collage based on their personal stories. Themes of nationalism, memorial, and renewal across generations find expression in Helmintoller’s work via physical manifestations of bureaucracy or statehood in various forms (junk mail, advertisements, and architecture, in addition to more personal effects). They often intertwine these representations of history with suggestions of violence and complicity but also with ideas of hope and progress.
Their series “Invented Futures” was instigated by a gift from their grandfather, chronicling the village in Lithuania where his family lived before the Holocaust. This window into the daily lives of their family’s ancestors, connected Helmintoller on a deeper level to their family’s heritage, their own Judaism, and the ways in which their family’s history has been fundamentally affected by their religion. Although they were first engaged with how to juxtapose this personal history with their fears of the growing nationalism in the U.S., they were instead motivated to shift their focus to themes of familial strength: union, matrimony, and heritage, as seen through the collapsing of time and space.
“The layers of Protective Properties move from the present to the past…an open palm harbors anonymous miniature figures, a pair protected and perpetuated by kinship…The suggested lineage is latent in the golden hand, a pendant passed down to my mother from my grandmother. A portrait of my great great grandfather Dovid Ethanan Moszczenik and his wife Golde look over a flowering hill, to the future. Behind them, landscapes evoke the surreal changes of industrialized society, and further, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe…with its many concrete slabs, or ‘stelae’. These images are from my grandmother Marilyn Matlin’s National Geographic magazines from the 1940s and 60s.“