Threads of Time: Solo Exhibition of Hand Embroideries by Eugenia Vainberg

Cleveland-based artist Eugenia Vainberg uses thread as a brush connecting moments in history, culture, and private life. Decades of thought and practice are present in the delicate and decisive lines in her work. When the lines depict dancers, drummers, or other energetic scenes, they seem to vibrate and pulse with the imagined sound and movement. When they follow the slow turning of a head, or a tranquil doe and leaf, they carry the gentle weight of intimacy captured and immortalized through art. 

The artist describes her life and work:

“I was born in the shtetl of Izyaslavl, Khmelnitsky district, Ukraine, in 1928. In 1932 my family moved to Kiev, where we lived until 1977. During the war, 1941-1944, we lived in Kuybishev (former Samara) on the Volga River. My father was the head of the Department of Structural Mechanics in the Kiev Institute Civil Engineering, of which he was one of the founders. My mother was a linguist specializing in English. In 1977, my two children and I immigrated to America. From September of 1977 until the present I have been living in Cleveland and worked as an editor for the business information company called Predicasts (Predictions and Forecasts) until my retirement in1992. 

I started to do embroidery at the age of eight. Our family occupied one room in a communal apartment (5 families in 5 rooms with a common kitchen and bathroom). Our room was divided by an ugly wooden screen to create a sense of privacy. (This word does not exist in the Russian language, nor does the concept of privacy itself.) I embroidered several large pieces for this screen. This was a tremendous project for a girl of my age, The room was shining with the colors and design. 

I am amazed now that during the war I was able to find the thread. During that period I designed and made a pillow cover of many flowers. 

A prominent Russian writer, Yuri Olesha, said ‘no day without writing a line.’ For me it is ‘no day without stitching.’ Unfortunately, it is not always possible. For 21 years I did not do embroidery. In 1977 I became involved with an American quilting group; this restarted my lost art. Colors are music to me. Tonalities of colors, shades and hues create the feeling of melodies in me. 

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 in the tongue of embroidery.” 

Each of Vainberg’s pieces evokes a story. For the arrangement of works at the Gallery at Praxis Fiber Workshop, Gallery Director Connie Fu and assistant Kayli Salzano elected to create a sequence of scenes involving atmosphere, characters, and design details, activating Vainberg’s oeuvre as a paint palette. Viewers can enter the sequence at any point and follow the ebb and flow of action and feeling along the gallery walls. 

Vainberg’s work also memorializes Russian and Jewish artists, writers, and performers, and the greats of the 20th century avant-garde—Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Anna Akhmatova, and Vladimir Mayakovsky to name but a few. Artists across the globe who have inspired her, including the prodigious Nadya Rusheva, the late Cincinnati-based modernist nature illustrator Charley Harper, and legendary performer Josephine Baker are also represented. 

All of Vainberg’s remaining pieces are for sale in our Store until late spring 2021.