Boryana Rusenova-Ina paints collages bound by light. Using images of both the Bulgarian landscape of her youth and of places she has never traveled, she constructs small dioramas in her studio out of postcards, snapshots, and other pictures she finds or makes. Lighting these like miniature stage sets to unite the disparate parts, she then paints what she sees: an image that is both constructed and organic, real and imagined.
Her paintings present as a unified landscape—comfortable and coherent—and yet they maintain the unsettling suggestion that they might, at any moment, rupture our expectations and fly apart. Delicately surreal, Rusenova-Ina’s work speaks to both how tenuous and how fundamental our relationship with place can be.
I spoke with Boryana Rusenova-Ina in the OSU Digital Union’s recording studio. We talked about being foreigners in America, buying into images of unfamiliar places, and her unlikely arrival as an artist.
I am interested in the notion of place and how I could construct images that evoke a feeling of familiarity as well as estrangement. My recent work focuses on the subject of landscape painting and borrows from its pictorial devices. Instead of large vistas and open skies, however, I work with images that reference the Soviet housing block. Now that I no longer live in Eastern Europe, I see spaces like playgrounds, public squares and neighborhood gardens as both mundane and yet strangely foreign.
The sources for my work are varied: from commercial postcards to found family photos. I am interested in how each image frames the place differently. How does our perception shift when we stop looking as participants and start viewing as visitors? In my process, I rely on photographic sources because they provide a specificity that I cannot access via memory alone. By cutting, flipping, and scaling, I look to create a new relationship between them. In the painting process, I use unified light to establish a sense of belonging between the disparate pieces of collage. Similar to the construction of a stage set, the space of my paintings feels coherent and disjointed at the same time. The resulting image is only half believable. It places me in a space that reads familiar but also disorderly and made up.