The latest curated collection of art in the Roger Smith Hotel lobby features the work of Miryana Todorova and Maria Providencia Casanovas. Miryana Todorova is a Bulgarian artist based in New York. Todorova’s work combines performance, painting, video and public interventions. Maria Providencia Casanovas is a visual artist living and working in New York; she has participated in numerous exhibitions across the globe and has been awarded several art grants throughout her career. Following the opening of their exhibition at Roger Smith, we sat down with the artists to discuss their inspirations, art practice and life as an artist in New York City.
MT: I never had to choose art, art has always been my life. My grandfather was a painter and both my parents are architects so since I remember myself I have been surrounded by paint and making paintings, drawings, sketches and maquettes and brainstorming ideas for structures. I remember myself growing up painting next to my grandfather at his studio and I would paint with him side by side and help him lay colors on the surface, transform a landscape or render with details some grassy leaves, a portrait of a dear friend, an icon of a saint or a structured scene as part of a mural or a ceiling of a church. I am deeply connected to fresco painting and interested in frescos as they are those performative moments that lay right on the intersection between painting and architecture- which is the core of my practice as an artist.
MPC: I don’t know when I decided to become an artist, and I think I never did decide! When I was little, it was easier for me to communicate in images, since I saw the world in a visual way. Once I finished High School it was natural to me to study Fine Arts in School. Once I finished my BFA I had to reassure myself as an artist accepting the place I found myself in.
MT: The main inspiration source for my works is the “instability” within the movements and actions between people, the awkwardness in the everyday life, situations you get in and you don’t know how to react upon. In my work I feel compelled to create moments in which people join forces and respond to things. I want people to protect and fight for their voice and territories, to feel that they all have a say and are capable of changing the action of others, as well as the existing structures of society.
MPC: My inability to connect myself to a place or group has had an enormous impact on my work. Since I arrived in the USA, about ten years ago, this inability recovered a new meaning and my work was defined more in this direction. To mitigate the effects produced by the social, cultural and individual displacement, I felt an urgent need to define the physical spaces that I occupied, the places where I lived and worked. – apartments, rented rooms, shared studios.
So, I started a series of projects in this direction, beginning with my immediate experience and the activities of day-to-day life within particular spaces. The relationship I establish with my living and working spaces allows me to explore how I build an identity with regard to others. There is a constant in my work that addresses the dichotomy of you/me, interior/exterior, and the negotiations that we establish between them in order to build our sense of uniqueness.
I began with the series, I left Through the Door, while living in a communal house in Harlem with ten other people. It is a group of images documenting how that house subjected me to both an unrelenting solitary existence as well as unrelenting communal one, magnifying the effect of each. Then I produced Domestic Landscapes after moving to Rochester, NY and temporarily renting a room in couple’s house. For me, defining the physical space comes with my experiences in that place. Rules and restrictions were very present for me while living in the shared house, and ‘Boundaries’ became the main subject. I used a horizontal format usually reserved for expansive landscape views as a means to accentuate the borders between people, places and things within the house.
MT: The beginning is like a storm of thoughts. There is this urge to get things outside of my body and transfer them to paper or canvas. I often begin projects with a network of gestures on a surface that become paintings, drawings or spatial and text diagrams and later on, as they develop, I move into objects, instructions, and tasks, unfolding into performing experiments of movability inside the studio or out on the street. The paintings, objects, and performances often become one unity and serve as a tool for initiating the possibilities for engagement and intervening in public space.
My work is never about ‘being finished’ and reaching the end point but always about the beginning, proposing methods to convey and structure or feeling and the process is a bit of an always expanding cluster of movable forms torn between the ‘gesture’ and the ‘action’, the private and public, the individual and the crowd, and the personal and the shared.
MT: Of course and I often collaborate with other artists for exactly those reasons of having both similar and different approaches to the making or to the desire and belief of how the work should look like or live in the world in general. In my practice, I am constantly looking for exchange, spontaneous communities, ludic moments, experiments, plug-ins and side notes and I strive to let people in the work more, to open up the system, and construct a gathering through a structure that is constantly falling apart and building itself back up.
MPC: Every artist lives the experience in different ways, because we all have different personalities, but I believe we all have to learn how to deal with the uncertainty and chaos that the creative process can bring.
MT: The paintings that are showcased at the Roger Smith Hotel are part my current and ongoing series of paintings ‘Foreign Body’. That is a series based on the situations and contradictions between bodies and structures in transit. These works are about adaptations, not quite fitting but being considered fit, perceiving a structure and not building able to surpass and cross over on the other side of it while still attempting to reshape the body to adapt and fight with landscapes and structural powers of oppression and disregard.
The multiple layers within these paintings construct various viewpoints and cut outs- the feeling of being submerged and removed from the landscape at the same time. The canvas becomes the stage for performing vulnerability, separation, awkward encounters, obscured visibility and lack of clarity. The movable forms merge with dissident desire for resistance to demonstrate the constant fight with a world that moves forward too much on the basis of differences and conflicts rather than connectedness and collaboration.
MPC: At Roger Smith Hotel I have two pieces: Inventory and Wallet, Socks, Notebook, Book, Portrait, and Glasses.
Wallet, Socks, notebook, portrait, glasses, and book is one single piece of six Photo-Intaglio prints. This work was undertaken while renting a room in a house with a couple. It explores the tension of having to conquer the lack of given space.
Inventory is a photographic archive of the 299 objects that entered and left my apartment during a three month period. The print exhibiting at the Roger Smith lobby is one of 8 panels that comprise the entire piece. Inventory 1/8 are the objects that came into my apartment during the first month. When I created this project I lived in Rochester and rented an apartment of my own, ending my nomadic status of renting rooms in other people’s apartments. I experienced the sense of independence that comes with having my own place, but also the loss of freedom that accompanies a lease, monthly bills and having to acquire a lot of essential items for the new space. Inventory was the response to my desire to control all of the objects that came into my life; to register, sort and classify them.
The result was a portrait of myself- as a consumer, as an artist, as a citizen. In the end, my “portrait” didn’t look that different from what other peoples’ “portraits” might look like.
MT: I have so many favorite places in NY. I have always wanted to write or design my own tour guide to the incredible places that the city possesses. I love being on the streets of New York and just walking and walking it all. The city is like a drug that enters your body and grows within your body. When I first came to NY I always wanted to hang out around Penn Station. That area walking 7th ave and up has a very special bright and cool light to it, it’s packed and feels like in a state of emergency.
You are curious to get closer to the light and the crowds and at the same time you feel a sense of urgency, as if anytime something strange will happen. It is similar to the sensation when you are about to face an accident feeling the urgency of pressure, the human necessity to get involved and yet the fear of getting involved too much and losing time or losing yourself within. I made a huge series of paintings in the past about crowds and powers and some of the them were all done from images of my experience walking around Penn Station and down towards Hudson Yards. I recommend walking all around that are and especially In the evening or late night on a Friday.
MPC: NYC is a great city, and just about everything is worth seeing. But it’s a tough place to be a tourist. I love The Storm King Art Center about 1 hour north of NYC. It’s 500 acres of forest, hills, and meadows filled with sculptures and installations. It’s the perfect place to spend a day and take a break from the busy city. My favorite sculpture is the stone wall winding through woods by Andy Goldsworthy.