“Imagine yourself leaving your house this morning,” said Rossitza Todorova, explaining the way she distills everyday experiences into finished artworks. “Let’s say you ran an errand or had to run to work, whatever the morning was like. By the time you get back to your door, if you were to compress that experience, that time period, what would that look like?” It sounds almost like a daily journaling habit, only the output is made of shapes instead of words.
In her current exhibition at Truckee Meadows Community College, those shapes include orderly, geometric arrangements of dark gray rods that look a bit like architectural models, a bit like the outlines of gemstones. It’s not clear at first how heavy the material is—or even what it is. And, because the shadows they cast are about the same weight and color as the rods themselves, it takes a few seconds to figure out where each sculpture ends and where its shadows begin.
Todorova migrated from Bulgaria as a child, got an art degree at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2005 and now lives in Tempe, Arizona.
Often, the types of experiences that she distills into artworks are as ordinary as, say, driving. The final pieces might be drawings, slide projections or sculptures made of cut and folded paper. For the current series, though, the event that Todorova distilled into physical form was something more pressing, the loss of her father. He passed away in August after a long battle with cancer. In the months following, Todorova said, “The feeling was this sense of being out of control. I felt like I was still on the same road or path, but it was like somebody else was driving.”
The out-of-control feeling manifested itself as a sort of visual metaphor, a mental image that looked something like a NASA satellite image of a moon slowly rolling away from her.
“That really started to feel like a metaphor for dealing with loss, and memory and longing for the past and wanting it to be the future, but knowing that you’re, again, still out of control, moving very quickly, in the now, moving forward, and you have no idea where you’re going,” she said.
She likened that feeling to vertigo, and she decided that one good way to express it would be with video footage. A parking garage in Phoenix that’s shaped like a corkscrew seemed like the right place to shoot.
“It all made sense to me the second I got in the car—this space that I know very well,” she said. “I was like, ’I can put my iPhone out the car window and ended up going out of the sunroof and filmed this space.’”
This and other videos made their way into the exhibition, both on small, wall-mounted screens and in projections that interact with large, hanging versions of the angular sculptures.
The installation as a whole—with wall and pedestal sculptures, drawings and meditative video work—presents traces of disorientation, such as where it takes a moment to tell the shadows from the work itself. The atmosphere is austere and pensive, and while it’s not bluntly declarative or overtly confessional, the look and feel of the work are consistent with the fact that Todorova made it while grieving the loss of a family member.
She put it this way: “I’m interested in making work that’s the kind of work I need in the world right now.”