Montages of survivors’ mementos recall Holocaust memories

Artist in Residence Leslie Starobin’s art on exhibit at Lamar Soutter Library

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

April 10, 2014

My Dear Daddy (2012) by Leslie Starobin is one of the beautiful but haunting montages of Holocaust mementos in the current exhibit of the Lamar Soutter Library’s Artist in Residence series. On April 24, Starobin will give a talk about the works, on display through June 27.

The art of current Artist in Residence Leslie Starobin, MFA, is inspired by places steeped in family memory, enriched by artistic and literary tradition, and central to world history and current events. With Inheritance: Stories of Memory and Discovery, a collection of six montages, Starobin weaves together pictures and stories in tribute to how memory and memorabilia can still link us to even a devastated past. Each of the works conveys a single Jewish family¹s journey before, during and after the Holocaust.

The series by Starobin, professor of communication arts at Framingham State University, is on display at the Lamar Soutter Library through June 27, and she will share stories from the Holocaust survivors and their children who made the project possible at a reception in the library’s Rare Book Room on Thursday, April 24. The reception will begin at 5 p.m. followed by her talk at 6 p.m.

“As memories of the Holocaust fade, I sought out relatives, friends and colleagues whose lives were profoundly shaped by World War II and its tragic consequences. Between 2007 and 2012, I interviewed these individuals and families about their wartime experiences and recorded our conversations,” wrote Starobin. “I composed still-life montages from ‘the things they carried’ and passed down to their children and grandchildren.”

Composed from the keepsakes Starobin’s subjects, including her own father-in-law, salvaged from the war, the still-life montages are deceptively beautiful in light of their somber subject matter—at first glance the casual observer will more likely be reminded of charming vintage photos than the horrors of the Holocaust. But on closer examination of the artworks and reading of the accompanying notes, the viewer is exposed to a sense of the pain and loss belied by the exquisitely composed and colored montages.

“For this exhibit, my artist’s palette is made up of tattered cloth, sepia photographs, charcoal sketches, smudged documents and wartime medals—visual mementos that encapsulate the families’ journeys before, during and after the Holocaust,” wrote Starobin. “The images and text explore memory, commemorate loss and radiate history.”

Learn more about Leslie Starobin and her work at her website, and contact Nancy Linnehan at nancy.linnehan@umassmed.edu for more information about the Artist in Residence series.