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Z. Todorova’s Language of Universal Symbols

Searching, Mixed Media, 12 x 31.5

It is no trick to make a simple thing complex,” the great jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus once stated. “The real accomplishment is making something complex simple.”
    He could have been talking about the mixed media works of the artist known as   Z. Todorova, who endeavors “to illustrate the important relationship between the natural world and humanity,” as she puts it, “through the use of metaphor and symbols. I use various techniques and materials, including wood and metal, to create my figurative/abstract pieces. I have been interested in this guiding theme for many years – the inseparable connection between people and the earth, and how this is reflected  in each individual, either overtly or behind the mask we present to others.”
    To accomplish this complex artistic mission, Todorova has evolved a language of simple yet profound symbols, as instantly readable at a glance as a “Stop” or “Exit” sign. (The example strikes one as apt, since inherent in her work is the implication that if we do not heed the first, in relation to the devastation we routinely wreak on our environment, we have no alternative but to do what the second sign suggests and depart the planet altogether.)    
    Most prominent among her symbols are featureless, genderless white silhouetted figures of Everyperson, set dramatically against backgrounds covered by tactile, thickly pigment earth colors, ranging from rich, dark siennas to luminous ochers, that palpably evoke the terra firma itself.
    In a work called “Heavy Burden,” two stick-figures as simple as glyphs on ancient rock carvings, carrying  a large boulder with what appears to be a necktie wrapped around it, seem to transform before one’s eyes into an insect like that which Gregor, the harried clerk in Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” turns into, provoking thoughts about corporate greed and the rape of the environment.    
    By contrast, in “Untitled 3,” one of her most direct expressions of the theme, the globe is divided down the middle on separate wood panels, with the word “WAR” visible between them, that two white silhouetted figures at opposite ends of the composition attempt to push back together. And in “Till Death Do Us Part,” the message is made equally clear with the image of a figure with the globe shackled to his leg like a ball and chain. That the title  is drawn from the marriage ceremony drives home the point that we truly are wedded to the fate of the earth. Together we either survive or perish.
   In “On the Way,” three figures with linked hands traverse the connected panels of a diptych. The one leading the way holds a candle; the middle figure is smaller, like a child; the figure bringing up the rear is perhaps the third member of a family making its way through the murk toward a more enlightened future.
    Another painting called “It’s Time...” appears to be a call to arms for people to take direct action to save the planet, as a standing figure points an authoritative finger, apparently admonishing a passively kneeling person to rise and join the others striking more active poses. Like all of Z. Todorova’s paintings, it is an instantly comprehensible message present with sublime simplicity that inspires the viewer to contemplate a wide range of problems and their possible solutions. 

 Z. Todorova, Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, Nov. 29 -Dec. 20, 2011. Reception: Thursday, Dec. 1, 6 - 8 pm.

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