OCEANSIDE — Songs and prayers shared in a Holocaust memorial service opened the colorful and moving Fabric of Survival exhibit by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz at the Oceanside Museum of Art on June 14.
Fabric of Survival is a collection of 34 hand-sewn tapestries in which Krinitz tells her personal story of survival during the Holocaust.
It took Krinitz from 1977 and 1996 to sew the story together. The needlework, rich in color and detail, describes the Holocaust in a series of dated events. Many of the tapestries are titled after the people shown in the scenes and have conversational narratives stitched into them.
“The names are so raw and personal,” Skip Paul, executive director of the Oceanside Museum of Art, said. “It’s a great example of textile art as a powerful narrative.”
The story begins prior to World War II with family scenes of children walking on stilts to grandmother’s house and the celebration of Rosh Hashanah and Passover.
“The War Arrived,” is the title of tapestry No. 7, which depicts a scuffle on a front porch and a line of soldiers on the dirt road in front of the house in 1939.
“It’s very emotional and still beautiful,” Allison Price said. She attended with her husband Robert Price, and they both oversee the Aaron Price Fellows Program, which supports enrichment opportunities for children. The Aaron Price Fellows Program invited Bernice Steinhardt, the daughter of Esther Krinitz, to speak about the tapestries to a group of students.
Upon meeting Steinhardt and finding that she and her sister Helene McCuade oversee the traveling exhibit Fabric of Survival, organized by Art and Remembrance, Inc., Robert Price suggested that the museum exhibit the display. He knew the artwork would be a “perfect match” for the Oceanside Museum of Art, which displays art in various mediums.
The tapestries, which illustrate artful scenes of men digging trenches, truckloads of people being driven away and a road packed with travelers on foot, connect and impress viewers.
“I never saw anyone put story into fabric,” Denise Villimure of Murrieta said.
Tapestry No. 31 marks the end of the war in 1944. The narrative below the needlework reads, “After the liberation I left Grabowka and returned to Mniszeh. None of my family was there.” The tapestry depicts a girl about to enter a vacant detention camp through a barbwire gate. Soldiers stand inside the camp by burnt remains and gas chambers.
A cheerier set of images ends the story. “Coming to America,” tapestry No. 33, shows Krinitz and her family with their bags aboard a ship passing the Statue of Liberty in 1949.
“Art remembers our past,” Skip Paul said.
“It’s a hopeful sign we can move beyond this to a different sort of world,” Judy Farley said. She attended with her husband James Farley, president and CEO of The Leichtag Family Foundation, a grant contributor to the exhibit.
“It helps us stop and take pause,” Judy Farley said
Other grant contributors to the exhibit are Robert and Allison Price and the Oceanside Arts Commission.
Fabric of Survival will be on display through Oct. 25, with a series of special programs related to the exhibit, including a lecture by Bernice Steinhardt and Helene McQuade. For more information, visit www.oma-online.org.