Through the Eye of the Needle: Fabric Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz – 10.17.2006

In 1977, at the age of 50, Esther Nisenthal Krinitz began creating works of fabric art to tell her story of survival during the Holocaust in Poland. Trained as a dressmaker but untrained in art, she created a collection of 36 fabric pictures of strong, vivid colors and striking details with a sense of folk-like realism. Through the Eye of the Needle: Fabric Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, on view at the Magnes November 20 through February 11, includes 36 quilts and is accompanied by an illustrated children's book, Memories of Survival.

In October 1942, after living under Nazi occupation for 3 years, the Jews of the village of Mniszek were ordered to report to the nearby train station. The 15-year old Esther decided she would not go but would instead take her 13-year old sister Mania and look for work among Polish farmers.

Turned away by Polish friends and neighbors, the sisters assumed new names and evaded the Gestapo, pretending to be Catholic farm girls. They never saw their family again. After the war ended, the two sisters made their way to a Displaced Persons camp in Germany, where Esther met and married Max Krinitz. In 1949, Esther, Max, and their daughter immigrated to the United States. Esther died at the age of 74, in March 2001, after a long illness.

The combined effect of story and art in Through the Eye of the Needle is powerful. While the pictures are visually pleasing, a closer examination reveals the shocking incongruity between the pastoral surroundings and the human violence, terror and betrayal depicted.

Tom Freudenheim, former director of the Berlin Jewish Museum, wrote: "These extraordinary pictures are very moving, but not in least bit sentimental. The compositional concepts are highly sophisticated. I was overwhelmed by what I saw."


Related Programs

Sunday, December 3, 2:00 PM
Conversations on Art
Through the Eye of the Needle: Fabric Art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz
Bernice Steinhardt and Helene McQuade share stories of their mother, Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, who in 1977 began creating works of fabric art to tell her story of survival during the Holocaust. Book-signing of Memories of Survival to follow.
$12 non-members; $10 members.

Sunday, February 4, 2:00 PM
Conversations on Art
The (Fabric)ation of Memory
This panel discussion explores intergenerational dialogue through the medium of textiles. Moderator: Jane Przybysz, executive director of San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. Panelists include: Magnes REVISIONS artist Amy Berk; Consuelo Underwood, Bay Area textile artist and associate professor of fine arts at San Jose State University; and Beth Dungen, independent curator.
$12 non-members; $10 members.

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