Esther and the Dream of One Loving Human Family
FEB. 23, 2019 - MAR. 3, 2024
2nd floor gallery, Zanvyl A. Krieger Main Building
Admission grants entry to the museum and all exhibitions except "A Visionary Spirit for Invention," which is not open to the public.
About the Exhibition
AVAM announces the return of its most beloved exhibited works in the national museum's 23-year history, the exquisitely tender testimonial embroideries created by Holocaust survivor, Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. AVAM premiered the works in 2001 that then traveled to 42 other museums around the world. Curator and museum founder, Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, states, "With the blessing of Esther's family, we proudly commit to an all-new, five-year, expansive installation, "Esther and The Dream of One Loving Human Family." Our goal is to juxtapose the power of Esther's work and story with the experience of other innocent victims of cultural genocides, historic and current—including South African Truth and Reconciliation embroidered testimonies and works gathered from Lily Yeh's partnership with Rwandan Tutsi genocide survivors—to urgently underscore the great danger of demonizing any human being as an undesirable 'other.’"
This special exhibition also features a partial recreation of Esther’s modest farm home, a thatched-roofed country cottage that Esther stitched in her first picture so that her daughters — and now visitors alike — could see her pre-war happy childhood home.
Told without a tinge of anger, Esther's thirty-six, intricate needlework and fabric collages depict how then 15-year-old Esther and her younger sister survived the Nazi invasion of Poland by separating from their observant Jewish farming family on the road to the extermination camp 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 as a designer and seamstress in her own ladies dress shop. Although trained as a dressmaker and highly skilled in needlework, Esther had no training in art and no concept 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 sequential narrative series that grew increasingly complex. With the addition of her embroidered text, Esther’s art powerfully illustrates her story of survival as a child and her uncanny creative intelligence to have done so. The high quality, colorful execution and honest charm of her artistry gives unique and unforgettable testimony to her family life as a happy country child whose peace was upended by war. Esther accomplishes this with a sweetness of spirit and lack of bitterness that conveys a near miraculous visual recall of detail and results in conveying an upfront experience of war, family, faith, and childhood. Everywhere Esther's love of nature predominates, best captured in the moment where the honey bees she tended, swarmed to run off two, too inquisitive, Nazi soldiers.
Having premiered Esther's works nearly 20 years ago, 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. Due to the record-breaking crowds that the tapestries 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 mid-February 2019 in a timely return emphasizing the need for greater societal recognition of the sacred gift of life inherent among all human beings.