Drawn together

Rossitza Todorova and Evan Dent

One of Evan Dent’s cartoon narratives in <i>Drawings and Mixed-Media Works on Paper</i>.

One of Evan Dent’s cartoon narratives in Drawings and Mixed-Media Works on Paper.

Evan Dent, Boomtown / Rossitza Todorova, City Introspections; Drawings and Mixed-Media Works on Paper is on exhibit at the Oats Park Art Center, 151 E. Park Street, Fallon, until March 15. For information, visit churchillarts.org or call (775) 423-1440.

Rossitza Todorova is half realist, half optimist. Evan Dent is more of an exorcist. They both headline the current exhibit at Oats Park Art Center in Fallon, Drawings and Mixed-Media Works on Paper.

Both are University of Nevada, Reno art program grads. They each use drawing as a medium and everyday life as a subject matter. From there, they part ways—stylistically, anyway. But this dual exhibit of Todorova’s geometry-heavy drawings of urban spaces and Dent’s dark, timeless cartoon narratives make for a clever comparison that shows two different ways artists use drawing to make their worlds more habitable places.

Todorova, an MFA candidate at Arizona State University, draws assertively geometrical pictures of on-ramps, off-ramps, freeway overpasses, and other urban constructions she’s seen while commuting across Phoenix. Before moving close to campus, she lived an hour away, and she’d sketch from the passenger seat on her morning commute as her fiancé drove.

“I stay on the idealist side,” she said in a public talk she and Dent gave together at the art center’s bar. She proceeded to describe a subject many love to hate in glowing terms: “The highway system in the United States is one of the most incredible things we’ve created as a society. I would place it on the level of, like, a national park because it gives us access to each other in a way that nothing else does. And so I kind of idealize that space.” She does that by heading back into the studio and repackaging the angles and curves of freeways from those front-seat sketches into final compositions that combine a Modernist formalism with the sort of handmade/machine-made touch a graphic designer might add to a magazine illustration.

Todorova, who immigrated from Bulgaria to Reno as a child, was shocked by the Nevada landscape’s lack of green, and was shocked again by the way concrete dominates the vistas in Phoenix, calls her drawings, collectively, “City Introspections.”

In a phone interview, when asked what about the details of everyday life captures her interest, she said, “I think that came from an attempt to keep my sanity.”

While Todorova layers images together by condensing sketches into a final image, Dent uses layers in a different way. He’ll draw a figure, erase it, and draw again on the same paper, leaving a trace to haunt the cartoon images he’ll eventually end up with. His pictures are psychologically messy narratives of things gone wrong or about to go wrong with animals, people, or hybrids thereof. Puffy white gloves; exaggerated shiny, black noses, and ex-ed-out eyes allude to the darker, pre-cute era of cartooning.

His drawings are indulgently reverent to his craft. A graceful painterliness underlies the Fear and Loathing toned images he draws in order to protect his own mind from the aftermath of the darker current events he hears about—murders of children, that sort of thing.

Dent, who now lives in Albuquerque, calls his body of work, “Boomtown,” a nod to Las Vegas, where he lived while earned an MFA at the University of Nevada there.

While Todorova and Dent both have strong personal motivations for continuing to make and refine their work, they also leave things up to interpretation.

Todorova explains, “I’m purposefully working with images that are not going to be recognizable in only one way.” An overpass, for example. “If the viewer wants to see it as only a shape, that’s up to them.”

Dent, whose narratives are clearly readable but whose imagery leaves plenty of room for projection, likewise says, regarding the impressions viewers might get, “It’s something I think it’s nice to consider but dangerous to dwell on.”