Far from Small: Dwora Fried’s Miniature Tableaux

Dwora Fried may create miniature tableaux, but her subjects and themes are far from small. Working with tiny figures and photographs to create spectacularly detailed worlds inside glass-topped wood boxes, Fried suggests rather than specifies her narratives. Then, in accompanying texts, she lets viewers see that these boxes contain searing representations of voyeurism, spectacle, and entrapment. Fried describes these pieces as depicting “a collection of climates, where even the most liberated are confined.” Her “Living Imprint” boxes depict the biographical stories of ten different survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuania, a country where ninety-five percent of the pre-WWII Jewish population – some 240,000 residents – were annihilated. Fried was one of three artists commissioned to memorialize the survivors.

Stunningly detailed, each box not only evokes a story but a visceral response in the viewer, who is pulled into the small, intricate world a box contains. Fried finds many of the small furnishings used in her boxes in flea markets around Europe, with many pieces hailing from the 1940s and 1950s.

Her box “Ai Weiwei” is both a tribute to the Chinese artist and activist and a depiction of the constraints that the repressive Chinese regime has levied on him, through house arrest, jailing, and the destruction of his studio. The “Blue Vanity” in the box of that title is a very feminine doll house furnishing, juxtaposed with a collection of black and white photos of female actresses, and a man in a blue sweater watching a Western on a television. What has become of the owner of that vanity? The sadness and loss in the piece is palpable. Fried’s “Anne Frank” includes a miniature kitchen, a well-known photo of Frank, and books dropped before a refrigerator. A baby doll and a replica statue memorializing Frank make the piece both reverential and haunting. Fried expresses the fact that Frank is memorialized now, a lighting rod evocation of the Holocaust, but often not remembered as the vulnerable child she was as well.

A native Austrian, Fried is an international traveler, mother of four children, and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.“I keep re-creating the feeling of what it was like growing up,” the artist says, “the box captures the claustrophobic feeling a painting can’t.” Her layered collages and complex boxes tell stories with sweeping implications, stories that through their profound meaning to the artist, have the ability to create a ripple effect of deep connection with the viewer.

Born in Vienna and now residing in Los Angeles, Fried has exhibited worldwide, including solo exhibits last year in Venice, Italy at the Museo Ebraico and Vienna, Austria. Fried has recently shown work at Chicago’s Woman Made Gallery, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument and at SPARC Gallery in Venice California.

She currently has five pieces in the permanent collection at the Museum Startgalerie Artotheck in Vienna, and has exhibited at the Women’s Museum of California in San Diego, as well as at Viridian Artists in New York. The artist has also shown in numerous group exhibitions at the Los Angeles Art Association where she is a member.

From Los Angeles to London to Ojai, Fried takes her evocative and startling miniatures to a wide variety of locations where they paint a very big picture indeed.

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