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"Painting with Thread" Opens at Library

Notre Dame College’s Clara Fritzsche Library will host “Painting with Thread,” a showing of embroidered works by Eugenia Vainberg from June 16 to Aug. 5. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, June 16, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Vainberg uses thousands of tiny silk stitches to reproduce famous works of art. The delicacy of the stitchery creates a fluidity that makes the pieces almost seem like actual drawings or paintings. Her subject matter is varied. She is attracted to the “minimal realism” of Cincinnati graphic artist Charley Harper and has reproduced many of his whimsical wildlife prints, as well as works of Paul Klee, Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian and many others.

"Prince Kalif I" by Eugenia Vainberg
"Prince Kalif I" by Eugenia Vainberg

Vainberg uses the art of needlework to convey a cultural history of Russia in the early 20th century before Stalin, particularly focusing on Russian, French and Jewish artists such as Marc Chagall and Vassily Kandinsky. She also stitches portraits of Soviet writers and actors well known in Russia.

“Colors are music to me. Tonalities of colors, shades and hues create the feeling of melodies in me,” Vainberg says. “Embroidery became an important part of my life, a way of self expression and reflection. It is very exciting to translate from the languages of different media into the tongue of embroidery.”

Vainberg was born in the Ukraine in 1928. She grew up in Kiev, where her father was a prominent engineer, scientist and head of the Department of Structural Mechanics in the Kiev Institute of Civil Engineering, which he co-founded. Vainberg’s mother was a linguist specializing in English.

The family endured much deprivation and hardship due to Stalin’s purges and World War II. In 1938, two uncles were arrested and killed in Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka Prison; Vainberg’s father was arrested and tortured. When Germany bombed Kiev in 1941, Vainberg, her mother and her sister fled on a train to Kuybishev on the Volga River. Vainberg’s aunt and three cousins did not leave and were later shot by the Germans when they tried to flee on foot.

After the war, the family reunited in Kiev. Vainberg lived there until 1977, when she, with her two children in tow, immigrated to America. She has lived in Cleveland since and worked as an editor for the business information company Predicasts in University Circle until her retirement in 1992.

Vainberg started embroidery at the age of 8 in an attempt to bring beauty into her drab surroundings. Her family occupied one room in a communal apartment that housed four other families. To create a sense of privacy, their room was divided by a wooden screen, which Vainberg embroidered with several large pieces. This was a tremendous project for a girl of her age. During that period, Vainberg also designed and made a pillow cover of many flowers. At the time, there was “no day without stitching” for Vainberg.

But that wasn’t always the case. For 21 years of her life Vainberg did no embroidery at all. It was not until 1977, when she became involved with an American quilting group, that she resumed her stitching. Through the years she has produced a vast body of work consisting of hundreds of pieces.

Vainberg lives in the Coventry Road neighborhood of Cleveland Heights, where she has lived since arriving from the Soviet Union. She shows her work regularly in the Cleveland area and has exhibited at the Humphrey Atrium Gallery at University Hospitals, the Howson Gallery at Judson Park, and the South Euclid-Lyndhurst Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.

Her newest exhibit will be free and open to the public and may be viewed during library hours. For summer hours check the library website at NotreDameCollege.edu/library. For further information contact Karen Zoller, director of the Clara Fritzsche Library, at 216.373.5267 or kzoller@ndc.edu.