My family and I were fortunate enough to see a series of 36 beautiful needleworks by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz.
Esther was born in the small village of Mniszek, Poland in 1927. Three years after WW2 began the Nazis took over the village. 15 year old Esther and her younger sister Mania went into hiding. They posed as Catholic Polish farm girls, surviving the war and deportations. As a child Esther had been trained as a dressmaker and as an adult she used all her skills to share her memories. In 1977, at the age of 50, Esther decided to tell her story through needlework pictures. She continued creating her fibre art until she died at the age of 77.
Each of the 36 panels tells a multi-layered story. We see rural farm life with details of home life, working the fields, and religious observance. This picture shows the Jews of Mniszek making matzah together.
While one woman made dough for her own batch of matzah the other women shared in the rolling. The shoemaker Mottel scored the dough, and his son Yankl put the matzah into the fire. I love the detail. We can see the shoes Mottel made on one wall and on another we see pots and even a potato grater.
The pastoral setting and details of the farms and countryside are lovely. Esther loved nature. She sewed flowers, crops, trees, and grass, utilizing many techniques.
She used applique, painted fabric, crochet, collage, crewel work, and embroidery. She used three dimensions and added curtains, braids, and in one piece there is even a curtain that can open and close. In some scenes, such as the one below, there is a time lapse. This particular piece shows the two sisters in 4 different situations. The subject matter is often jarring. and can reduce the viewer to tears with the details of cruelty, loss and terrible reality.
If you ever have a chance to see this exhibit you should go. Alternatively go to http://artandremembrance.org/ You will be able to read about Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, see her art and watch an interview with her.
Memories can be communicated through many forms of art- painting, fibre art, music, dance, poetry, sculpture, story telling, graphic novels, and more. We are lucky when we have the good fortune to share those memories because they have been put into the world by people like Esther Nisenthal Krinitz and her daughters.
Shabbat Shalom, Laya