Esther & The Dream of One Loving Human Family

Opening February 6, 2019

About the Exhibition

The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) is privileged to show the work of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, a series of 36 intricate, deeply personal needlework and fabric collages depicting how then 15-year-old Esther and her younger sister survived the Holocaust by separating from their observant Jewish farming family and posing as Polish Catholic farm girls. Esther began her series of fabric pictures in 1977 at the age of 50, while working in Frederick, Maryland. Although trained as a dressmaker and highly skilled in needlework, Esther had no training in art and no conception of herself as an artist. Yet, her first pictures were so well-received by her family and friends, and so personally satisfying, that Esther went on to do others, eventually beginning a narrative series that grew increasingly complex. With the addition of her text, Esther’s art powerfully illustrates her story of survival. The high quality execution and honest charm of her artistry gives unique and unforgettable testimony to her life as a child in Holocaust wartime. They accomplish this with a sweetness of spirit and lack of bitterness that conveys a near miraculous visual recall of detail and results in conveying a most atypical experience of war, family, faith, and childhood.

Having premiered Esther's works in 2001, before they traveled to 42 other museums around the world, AVAM is particularly honored that Esther’s family has enthusiastically sought to again collaborate in exhibition of Krinitz's work for a far expanded 5-year exhibition on the dangers of demonizing anyone as an "other" and in consideration of other genocides of innocents. Due to the record-breaking crowds that the quilts generated, they returned to AVAM in 2003-2005 and then again in 2012-13 for the exhibition “The Art of Storytelling: Lies, Enchantment, Humor & Truth.” This newest installation opens February 2019 in a timely return emphasizing the need for greater societal recognition of the sacred in all human beings. This special exhibition also features a partial recreation of Esther’s modest farm home, a thatched-roof cottage that she stitched in her first picture so that her daughters — and visitors alike — could see her treasured happy home from times pre-Nazi.