At the August 9th reception for artist Malka Nedivi’s solo show “Mother and Daughter,” Nedivi remarked “I’m overwhelmed at how big a reaction people have to this show, and what it does to people in an emotional way. I’m so moved.” Overwhelmingly beautiful and moving are definitely a part of the descriptive vernacular when it comes to Nedivi’s work. Inspired both in subject and material by the artist’s seamstress mother, this don’t-miss-show runs through September 16th at the National Council of Jewish Women in Los Angeles.
A painter, sculptor, and collage artist, Nedivi says that all of her work is inspired by her mother, and both her parents’ previously unknown past as Holocaust survivors. Nedivi’s work uses a great deal of wood and fabric. “My mom loved wood and boxes, so I chose materials that she loved,” the artist explains. The tactile nature of Nedivi’s work contributes to the feeling that each carefully layered piece is alive with emotion, visually leaping off the floor of the gallery.
Her “Floating Woman” mixed media sculpture shows a white-bodied, ghostly woman in a vibrant red dress. The vibrancy of the dress beats like a visual heart, and expresses life, no matter how the woman, with her pale facial features, may fade. Emblematic of the artist’s bond with her mother, the piece seems to express the idea that love lives on after the body may have faded away.
“My Big Doll” is the large scale six-and-a-half-foot mixed media sculpture that greets viewers entering Nedivi’s exhibit at the NCJW. The doll figure’s fabric hair and patterned skirt and top look like flowers. She seems to be blooming with both life and sadness, her eyes downcast, her cheerful colors ignored. With most of the sculpture white, there is the feeling of an otherworldly presence animating her figure.
Mixed media on wood, Nedivi’s “Memory” features a variety of figures, children, and adults, and a tree that may be the tree of knowledge, with ripe fruit upon it. A man and a woman stand at either ends of the piece, with two smaller girls, and a smaller boy and girl, backs turned to us, in the middle. Behind these smaller figures is a woman with Rapunzel-like long hair, holding her face in her hands. This figure is two-dimensional, the others are three. Viewers may take the figures on both ends of the canvas to be Nedivi’s parents, the woman with the long hair sitting beside the tree of knowledge is perhaps the artist herself, endowed with the previously unknowable about her parents, knowledge that children, perhaps her own, perhaps the child she once was, are turning toward.
Created on wood with paper, fabric, acrylic, and glue, the artist’s “Single Woman” is a riveting figure, her expression wise, withdrawn, palpably sad; her skin pale, her hair grey. Within this face is so much poignant life, and so much intricacy that comes with age. The wood itself that holds her visage is knotted and rough, the background to life in an imperfect world.
In each of Nedivi’s works, there is an intertwined immediacy: beauty and sorrow, cast down eyes and triumphant splashes of color, mother and daughter, past and future. The bared-soul intimacy of these pieces make them almost impossible to look away from, nor would viewers wish to do so. Rather, the pieces are made to pull viewers into a hidden world, a magical world, a world of mighty sorrows, hoarded secrets and pieces of fabric and scrap, and a world in which resilience and joy trump even the darkest past.
Born in Israel, Nedivi studied theater and literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and film at UCLA. She is also an accomplished film-maker. Her art is self-taught, beginning with ceramics in the 1990s. A move back to Israel inspired her current works, these large scale sculptures and collage paintings on both wood and canvas. Many of the pieces in “Mother and Daughter” use fabric and other materials found in her childhood home.
The artist has previously exhibited at the Santa Monica Fine Art Studios in Santa Monica, Calif., and was recently selected as one of ten Southern California Contemporary Artists from Israel exhibited at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery in Los Angeles.
- Genie Davis, All Photos: Jack Burke