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."