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February 7 - March 21, 2009, at Art Dimensions, West Los Angeles

by Andy Brumer

Photographer, painter and conceptual artist Freyda Miller, who for 20 years also worked as a production stylist for films and a coordinator for commercials and national print ads, presents her assemblage for the first time with this show. Though formally one can perceive how this body of work may have easily evolved from her previous art making and professional activities, viewers will also note that its strong and skillful dexterity, resonant soulfulness and original “tone of voice” suggests an artist who has made assemblage for many years. Indeed, this body of work employs yet transforms qualities associated with some of the 20th century’s master assemblagists, including Joseph Cornell’s intimate and small-scaled interiority, Robert Rauschenberg’s light and poetic compositional touch, and Louise Bourgeois’ use of autobiographical material gleaned from childhood memories.

More specifically, all of Miller’s imagery in this show expresses the artist’s intensely felt ideas and feelings about femininity, motherhood, nature and the non-gender specific mystery of artistic creativity itself. Miller composes these small scale and finely wrought pieces out of found objects, vintage treasures, and personal mementos, while employing painting, carpentry, propping, sewing and other mediums and methods in their construction.

In fact, the show’s title subtly subverts a popular present day theory of dreams and dreaming, which posits that the more emotionally charged events of a day become fodder for the brain. It proceeds to mechanically transform them into that night’s dreams. The phrase, “Fertile Dreams,” however, suggests that dreams themselves work as psychic seeds, taking root in the soil of the dreamer’s soul, then blossoming into autonomous aesthetic entities of complete counter-universes independent of and categorically different from waking life’s time- and space-bound (and therefore limited) parameters of experience.

Of course for dreams to nourish and change a person, the dreamer must interact with them regularly and intimately. Writing them down in a dream journal, or working on them with a therapist or dream worker are familiar paths to accomplish this. By creating tangible and durable works of visual art from dreams’ protean and immaterial imagery Miller risks taking an essential step beyond simple self awareness.

"Nesting," 2007-08,
assemblage, mixed media, 19 x 12 x 5".

"Shame on You," 2008,
photography, mixed media, 37 x 28".

"The Coop," 2007-08,
assemblage, mixed media, 15 x 12 x 12.

"The Crib," 2005-09,
assemblage, mixed media, 8 x 17 x 9".

Many if not most of the pieces in “Fertile Dreams,” revolve around both the idea of the egg and actual eggs themselves of varying sizes, sources of origin and degrees of wholeness and fragmentation. Several utilize toy dolls. “Nest” transfigures the doll into an innocent fertility goddess, attaching it to a decorative fragment of wooden furniture. A round nest containing three eggs serves as the girl’s torso, while a garland of twigs full of berries sprout from her head. In “Shame on You” a larger doll, her head cracked open then glued roughly back together, sits in a wire cage on which sits a red shoe tree that is the shape and color of a heart. Rather than conveying confinement, the cage’s opened hatch and wire grid, along with the gazing doll’s cavernous cranium, all suggest security, emergence and growth.

While the eggs are obviously archetypal fertility symbols, they also interplay with a host of other containers and vessel-like objects: small bottles, boxes, miniature chests of drawers, nests, small balls, meshed wire and lace fabric (whose poked and embroidered patterns create networks of dark tunnel-like inner spaces and holes). They add up to a collective, multifaceted metaphor for the womb, the process of incubation, and for the mysterious process of psychological individuation. One of Miller’s first assemblages is composed of small, dark balls or very round eggs revolving in a circular pattern against a deep blue background at once evoke sleep’s peacefulness, but also the more unsettling sense of the world’s unfathomable depths.

“An un-interpreted dream is like a unopened letter one writes to oneself,” says the Talmud, the ancient Jewish text of laws and traditions. Miller’s art in this exhibition does not so much analyze her own dreams as it pays homage to their ultimate ambiguity and mysterious creative power and process of creation, and to that of their sister iterations, serious art conceived in all shapes, styles and genres.