Estelle Kessler Yarinsky works out of a studio at Delmar’s Four Corners. Colorful pieces of cloth cover the shelves; labeled bins are on the floor and on the wall, there’s a work-in-progress, its key elements hidden by pinned-on bits of what else? fabric.
Twenty of her large fabric wall hangings are currently on display at the Albany Institute of History and Art, in an exhibit titled `Fabrica: Fiber Constructs by Estelle Kessler Yarinsky.`
`They’re portraits of little-known women who did well-known things,` Kessler Yarinsky said. `They’re very large pieces that I worked on for 12 years. I think of this project as rescuing exceptional people from anonymity.`
Some of the women depicted are Emily Warren Roebling, wife of the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge. After her husband became ill, Roebling, who had been schooled in science and math, tucked the plans under her arm and oversaw the completion of the project. Rosalind Franklin, instrumental in the discovery of DNA, and the now well-know Zora Neale Hurston are some of the other women.
Kessler Yarinsky’s work involves as much research as art work. She learned about most of her subjects in her daily life ` at the library, on the radio, at museums ` and does some reading and research about them.
`I have to decide that it’s a person I’d like to live with for a long time,` she said. `I do library research; I contact biographers.`
Kessler Yarinsky, 75, starts sketches, does a fabric sketch, and eventually makes a full-sized sketch before completing works that are as large as 45` wide and 80` long.
The fabric portraits began with some of the women in Kessler Yarinsky’s family.
`I started with my mother and her four sisters,` Kessler Yarinsky said. `They were first-generation Americans, and their parents could send the boys to college, but not the women. Still, they accomplished so much.`
One of our favorite fall places
A second exhibit is also on display now at the Institute, and while it’s not by a local artist, it’s about a local place now at its most beautiful.
`Indian Ladder, A Lyric Journey: Photographs by John Yang` showcases photographs that New York City-based Yang has taken of the Indian Ladder trail at the John Boyd Thacher State Park in the course of six years.
The 38 photos were taken by a view camera, which takes 11-by-14 inch photos.
`It’s an old-fashioned camera,` Yang, who’s 74, said. `It has a hood, a bellows, and brown glass. You see the image upside down. The large camera enables you to compose the picture very carefully and see the picture you’re taking.`
Yang makes a contact print from the full-size film.
`I got a lot of queries along the trail about why I didn’t use a smaller camera and make enlargements,` Yang said. `A contact print contains clarity and detail you can’t get with an enlargement.`
How did a New York City boy end up shooting photographs of Thacher Park? By reading a guide book by Bradford VanDiver, a geologist.
`The whole field of geology is quite fascinating,` Yang said. ` I found a reference to Thacher State Park and was Mine Lot Falls.`
The notion of 1000-foot cliffs caught Yang’s fancy, and he made repeated trips to the area to take pictures between 2001 and 2006.
`A place has to touch you,` he said. `You have to go to it, then go back and then go back again. You see more, and you get some good pictures. Stick around and continue to photograph and good pictures will come again.`
Yang’s exhibit will be accompanied by `The Helderberg Escarpment: A History of Tourism and Science,` which will showcase paintings, prints, postcards and geological samples.
`Fabrica: Fiber Constructs by Estelle Kessler Yarinsky` and `Indian Ladder: A Lyric Journey: Photographs by John Yang` will run until the end of the year.
The Albany Institute of History and Art is located at 125 Washington Ave. in Albany. Admission is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors and students; $4 for children 6 to 12 years old; and free for children under 5.
For information, call 463-4478 or visit www.albanyinstitute.org.“