An Interview with Artist Dwora Fried
by Kristine Schomaker
Tell me about your art career, when did you first realize you wanted to be an artist?
I started out in middle school making cartoons and caricatures of the teachers. My mother took us to museums and galleries in Vienna from a very early age and I remember being mostly fascinated by the surrealists. This evolved into drawing and sketching, mostly with caran d’ache oil crayons. I remember loving the smell of those crayons, of oil colors and turpentine. But becoming an artist never occurred to me, it was what my father called a “Luft Geschaft”, air business.
Where did you grow up and how does it affect your work today?
I grew up in Vienna, Austria. My father was an assimilated viennese jew and my mother a holocaust survivor from Poland. No one ever talked about the war and the concentration camps, but I became obsessed with the subject and read my father’s files in his office ( he was an attorney who sued Germany’s government for reparations for holocaust victims.)
I left Vienna for college, studied French Lit and Philosophy at Tel Aviv University and went to Avni Art school “on the side”, thinking I would eventually teach at a liberal arts college.
My most inspiring art teacher was Okshi, a famous Israeli artist from Acre: he taught us how to take photographs of landscapes, encouraged us to project the images onto canvases and paint over them. Then we worked on combining photographs and watercolors, making collages and mixed media assemblages.
In your art, you work with various objects and materials. How do you manage to merge contrasting materials into a cohesive whole? What kinds of connections do you make between the objects? Where do you find them?
About ten years ago, my mother began having signs of dementia and I spent a lot of time staying with her in her small apartment in Vienna.
I started creating tiny tableaux inside glass fronted wooden boxes I had found at Ikea…I populated them with vintage toys from the 50’s I found at various flea markets, adding old photographs, fabrics, stuff I discovered at my mother’s place ( she was a bit of a hoarder), fabrics, plastic, wood, metal, paint… So I made these small rooms that at first glance seem to be colorful miniature dollhouse rooms: however their small size forces the viewer to get closer and share that intimate sense of alienation and craziness.
They evoke what it was like to grow up as an outsider in postwar Vienna: being Jewish, a lesbian and a child of holocaust survivors. I inherited a sense of displacement and an appreciation for the surreal.
What was the most challenging work you have made?
In 2013 I was invited by the Museo Ebraico di Venezia ( Jewish Museum of Venice) to do a solo show with my mixed media boxes, which subsequently would travel to Vienna.
I created a body of work that showed what it is like to see everything through the prism of loss, danger and secrecy. How nothing really makes sense and how, even though time has passed and the war is a distant memory, nothing has fundamentally changed: racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia are alive and well in Europe. It was very challenging to confront the viewers with this provocative work and answer their questions.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I started to focus more on my life in Los Angeles, my work is less “Austria centered” and I have a project planned, where a life size box will be placed in the middle of a gallery, where people can actually sit inside and be part of the diarama, while the small boxes will surround the big one on the walls.
Dwora has work in these upcoming exhibitions:
“Where the Magic Happens” @ Gallery H Phantom Galleries Hawthorne opening October 3rd
“Blank Canvas” a benefit charity exhibition at Washington Reid Gallery in Culver City
Check out more of Dwora’s work on her website
You can follow Dwora on these social media platforms: