Back in the Roaring 20s, when she walked straight out of her Catholic orphanage and into the art institute in Toledo, Ohio, Helenka Bimstein knew that her life had changed. Neglected by her mother and abandoned by her father who returned to Poland, Helenka found home and inspiration in Egyptian art. But she had to wait a few more decades before that inspiration could fully flower.
After raising four children in Chicago (including Utah composer Phillip Bimstein) she began to sculpt, paint and study interior design. Then her gypsy DNA led her through Venice Beach, Aspen, Santa Fe—and now to Salt Lake City, where her punk rock hair and active 9th & 9th lifestyle belie her 95 years.
Like her clothes and her hair, her cozy house is a splash of vibrant color, both on the walls and in her acrylic paintings, filled with Egyptian symbols and motifs and other fanciful images that spring from her imagination. “When I get inspired to make a painting,” says Helenka, “I first create one object in the center of the canvas. Then the other ideas just spiral out from there and I just watch them unfold.”
You can view the unfolding of Helenka’s art in her show, “A Glimpse of Individualism,” March 1-31 at the I.J. and Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center, 2nd Floor, 2 North Medical Drive in Salt Lake City (801-581-0098). Come meet her at the artist’s reception, Monday, March 1, 7-9pm.