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.
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. 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. Meticulously stitched words beneath the pictures provide a narrative and the combined effect of story and art is powerful. While the pictures are visually pleasing, a closer examination reveals the shocking incongruity between the pastoral surroundings and human violence, terror and betrayal depicted. This exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated children's book Memories of Survival and a fully developed educator guide.
Terry Pink Alexander
Executive Director, Judah L. Magnes Museum
Alla Efimova is the Chief Curator at the Judah L. Magnes Museum.
Vice President, Art & Remembrance
Helene McQuade is the younger of Esther Nisenthal Krinitzâ€™s two daughters. Encouraged by her mother to draw, paint and play the flute as a child, Helene developed a lasting love for art and music. A graduate of the City College of New York with a bachelorâ€™s degree in Art History, her early career was in the arts and publishing. Now residing in the Hudson Valley of New York, Helene is a development officer for the NDH Foundation of Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, and serves her community as Vice-President of the Pine Plains Central School District Board of Education.
Esther Nisenthal Krinitz
Esther Nisenthal Krinitz was a survivor of the Holocaust in Poland. 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.
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. 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. Meticulously stitched words beneath the pictures provide a narrative.
President and Chairperson, Art & Remembrance
Bernice Steinhardt, one of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz's daughters, was born in Belgium and immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was 20 months old; her first languages were Polish and Yiddish. Moved by her parents' experiences as victims of the Holocaust, she has devoted most of her life to social causes.
In addition to her community involvement, most of her career has been aimed at improving civic participation and good government.
For more than a decade, she has held a variety of leadership positions with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative and analytic arm of the U. S. Congress. She has directed GAO's work on environmental, energy, and public health programs, as well as government-wide management issues, testifying numerous times before the Congress. For several years, she was also responsible for leading GAO's strategic planning. Her work has led to major improvements in the effectiveness of federal policies and programs as well as savings for taxpayers, for which she received a number of awards.
At the same time, she has been working to bring her mother's story and art to a broad audience, founding the Esther Project and Art and Remembrance to help in this mission. Her efforts have led to current and planned exhibits at major museums, as well as speaking engagements at the Polish Embassy, the University of North Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of the Science and Art, and the Washington DC Jewish Women's Project, among others. She is also the co-author of the book, "Memories of Survival," based on her mother's work.