Irma Freeman Center show explores the miniature | Community Profile | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Irma Freeman Center show explores the miniature

Some works make the viewer feel like a careful Godzilla treading through Tokyo

The Carnegie Museum of Art is a "large" institution, both in cubic feet and in reputation and status. The Irma Freeman Center for the Imagination is "small" in size and history, a relatively recent addition to the visual-arts community that the Carnegie helped build. But one of the most-loved attractions of the latter — the museum's almost-hidden alcove housing a handful of windows into tiny rooms — has prompted the current show at the former.

All of the works in the Freeman Center's The Big Little Show: Art in Miniature are fascinating in their delicate intricacy, even if they make the viewer feel at times like a careful Godzilla treading lightly through Tokyo. Lisa Demagall's glass sculptures of chandeliers are beautiful in their fragile, finely crafted vulnerability. Exhibit curator and Freeman Center founder Sheila Ali's "Hermeneutics in Outer Space" is a short, stop-action video with props made of found objects and discarded junk evoking the late, great Ray Harryhausen, including an awesome dog spun out of fur.

Pressing your eye to a peephole is worth it for a glimpse of Alberto Almarza's astonishing dioramas, about the size of a deck of cards, such as "The Miniature Museum of Modern Art," complete with renderings of works by Van Gogh and Dali smaller than postage stamps; the reproduction of "Guernica" is particularly breathtaking. Etta Cetera's "The Miniature Library" is a desk strewn with tiny handmade volumes, matchbook-sized, gathered over several years from artists across the globe. The desire to pick these up and thumb through them, which is not allowed, borders on maddening.

Irma Freeman Center show explores the miniature
Photo courtesy of the Irma Freeman Center for the Imagination
A little light: One of Lisa Demagall's chandelier sculptures

Doug Duerring's photographs themselves are large, colossal even within the context of the exhibition, but capture carefully constructed scenes of workers built with pieces that seem to be scaled to doll-house proportions (it's hard to discern exact size), rendered in stark and moody black and white, nodding to a film noir aesthetic. Another photographic series documents models that Sandra Streiff created for Fred Rogers' Neighborhood of Make Believe, along with the real-life local structures that inspired them. While the photos are fascinating, sadly, none of the models are present.

Be aware: As the pieces in this show are small, so is your window of opportunity to view them. Gallery hours are limited to Saturdays from 2-5 p.m., during special events and by appointment.