PLAYGROUND DETROIT is pleased to present multi-media artist Dessislava Terzieva in her first solo exhibition on Tuesday, November 10th. Terzieva’s installation has transformed The Playground into “A gift shop of an ancient cathedral that was owned by a revolutionary hoarder” additionally inspired by “drug busts (the layout of confiscated items), alternative/family owned dollar stores ([dis]organized chaos) and the motor oil bottle aisles at Meijers at 4am (repetition, excess).” A runner from the entry of the gallery space leads to an altar, suggesting that the viewers consider their own views of spiritualism, as well as the ritualistic performance inherent in the creation of the altar itself.

After receiving her BFA in Political Science and spending a year in Wayne State University’s law school, Terzieva found her voice on political and social issues could be more expressive by “expanding on them through art rather than engaging directly with the system in which they exist.”She first created her own public platform by turning her apartment into a DIY gallery, then held a residency at the Redbull House of Art, contributed to several international publications, and has exhibited with Inner State Gallery.

Self-taught, she began her foray into the art world four years ago by exploring the technique of collage. Now more tongue-in-cheek than political, her work adorns wood panels with iconic religious and art icons. Replacing original relics with everyday household items accented by gold leafing, they are given a newfound importance and light, as if they were traditional Byzantine works. Shown within installations and often accompanied by performance, Terzieva creates a 360 degree-experience.

What are your mediums of choice as an artist?

Mixed media/collage, installation, found object sculpture, assemblage. Collage is my first love and the exacto knife is my weapon of choice. The combination of pre-existing things which come together to create something new is at the root of my practice.

I’m currently interested in installations which are composed of a multitude of individual pieces. I make a lot of “stuff”, in a variety of different mediums, and if/when it is time to share them with the outside world, I want it to be an experience.. an environment for people to walk through. A visual story with enough blanks left behind to be filled by the visitor, resulting in a unique individual experience.

How long have you been a practicing artist?

I have a Bachelors degree in Political Science and I completed a year of law school at Wayne. I left that behind to create art full-time some four years ago. I’m still interested in social and political topics but I feel I am currently more capable of expanding on them through art rather than engaging directly with the system in which they exist.

“I didn’t grow up in, with or around art. It came to me much later in life, in the form of self-help/therapy. I think I’ve always been ‘creative,’ it just took a while to realize what I was doing is recognized as ‘art’.”

Creating something with my hands, which stems from an idea in my brain but also resonates deeper within me, is grounding– I become restless and stir-crazy if I go too long without it. It’s a way for me to clear my head and make sense of the world and myself.

As far as a career goes – I work odd jobs which utilize different skills that I possess – all for the sake of experience and of course, having some sort of cash flow. I’m a bookkeeper right now – I’ve been a realtor, a baggage handler and worked at a medical marijuana dispensary. I plan on continuing to utilize my various interests and talents alongside my creation and sharing of art.

Image credit: Rachel Roze

Image credit: Rachel Roze

What is the concept behind the show you are installing at The Playground?

A gift shop of an ancient cathedral that was owned by a revolutionary hoarder.

What inspires you?

Specifically for this show at The Playground, A Bronx Tale (a childhood favorite), Magura Cave in Bulgaria, orthodox cathedrals and monasteries, drug busts (the layout of confiscated items), alternative/family owned dollar stores ([dis]organized chaos) and the motor oil bottle aisles at Meijers at 4am (repetition, excess) and the film The Colour of Pomegranates (which I never actually watched, but had on repeat around me for close to a month).

Who are influential artists in your life?

I love Isa Genzken; she’s my self appointed god mother and a total badass. Rene Magritte’s paintings are everything I’ve ever wanted my collage work to be. Joseph Beuys practice, as well as the Dada and Situationalist International movements have definitely made an impact on me. Currently, I’ve been really into and inspired by David Hammons.

When did you start to use technology “artifacts” in your work?

A year or so ago. I think I was cleaning out my bedroom at my parents’ house and found a collection of my old phones, and I started to think about the time and memories associated with each one, and the stories they house. Then the thoughts expanded to the fact that we so regularly switch phones although we essentially continue to use them for the same basic purposes – talk, text, communicate. The creation of new versions seems to be less about innovation and more consumer driven.. creation for the sake of monetary gain and victory of the market. Because there is such a surplus of them around me, I decided to turn them into something new.. most times, just as silly and useless as they end up becoming after months of usage. I see these pieces as relics of the future: what would our future society dig up if the world was to end tomorrow?

How does your ethnicity and background influence your perspectives of Detroit or the US?

I was born in Bulgaria. I moved to Michigan after first grade, residing in the suburbs – 15 minutes north of where I am today (Hamtramck) since 2011. I’ve spent every summer, with the exception of one, in Bulgaria. It’s still very much home to me. I love Hamtramck because it has similar quirky characteristics. I love Detroit as a whole for similar reasons- the city is poor, corrupt and beautiful in its own unique way. Traveling to and returning to my motherland does many things for me, the most important of which is to remind me that there are infinite ways to be a human, and just as many ways to live your life.

What about your creative process have you found to be the most successful for you?

A balance between isolation and social immersion. Keeping up the momentum, not overthinking, exploring new mediums and materials in order to create something new which I have never seen and/or made before. Also, trusting myself and following my obsessions, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time.. it always ends up coming together in the end. I live for the “aha” moments, when things begin to click in your head. It’s an overwhelming and amazing feeling – the idea’s themselves are [the] art.

Image credit: Rachel Roze

Image credit: Rachel Roze

What is the most important concept(s) or theme that your work revolves around?

Everything is narrative. I sneak in personal stories or reflections into nearly everything. I often times make art about things that happen earlier that day, or when completed, am able to associate a personal experience to a piece which I had not had in mind while creating it.

Social commentary has also always been present. The collages I used to make years ago were very politically driven. I am now more into using humor. Kind of like when you make a joke to cover up the fact that you are actually talking shit, and although an uncomfortable laughter is shared a point is still made. I was obsessed with Marxism and topics like consumer capitalism during undergrad and those concepts continue to exist within my work.

I also play with our perception of and relationship to garbage. Once something is no longer necessary, we throw it away, and in that act it becomes “trash” – seldom does it begin as such. Can it’s afterlife bring it purpose again? Can I alter it in a way which in turn changes your perception of its truth? Does adding jewels to an empty motor oil bottle make you want to put it on your kitchen table?

Can you pick one piece of work that you would consider your favorite?

My most favorite recent work was a performance/installation I collaborated on with Paula Schubatis, and made possible by Inner State Gallery. We created a “Bizarre Bazaar” in which we set up a large tent in the middle of Greektown, under which we laid out a plethora of our art objects/sculptures and attempted to sell them to passerbys. We were in character as gypsy women, speaking broken English and talking shit to and about each other to our visitors. It made some people very uncomfortable, and they were unable to fully experience because they required an explanation. Others were intrigued, curious and fully immersed themselves into the shared experience. Whether we shared laughter or an awkward silence, the direct engagement and exchange of energy with the audience was extremely rewarding. I’m excited to do more of this in the future.

What’s coming up next for you?

I’m looking forward to an upcoming collaboration with Paula Schubatis in NOLA this summer, as well as an installation inside an old cathedral in rural Germany in the fall. There will be lots of DIY projects in between.

Why do you live/make work in Detroit?

I work in Detroit because monetarily it’s affordable and more or less free creatively. It’s not as big or busy as other major cities, so I am less distracted and able to focus on my work. I have the opportunity to think of an idea one night then put it into action the following day without having to ask for permission.


Image credit: Rachel Roze

Image credit: Rachel Roze

What do you love about Detroit? 

It’s a twisted little utopia. I like to drive around and observe the landscape, discover new absurdities and witness randomness on the streets. The desolation is conducive to my driving with the exception of potholes, which do come in favor when it comes to finding broken pieces of automobiles along the road.
I’m a home/studio body but I do have some regular spots – Hare Krishna temple on Sundays, Kelly’s bar for taco’s on Wednesdays, Antietam every other day, Belle Isle in the summer, dark alleys all year round… but really, my favorite thing in Detroit is the amazing people I have met and the relationships I have fostered.

What are challenges as an artist in Detroit?

A major challenge for artists is a lack of perspective access to the global art world/ market.

Describe what you imagine Detroit to be in 10 years.

The Flintstones imitating The Jetsons.

Dessislava Terzieva’s solo exhibition opens November 10th from 6-9pm at The Playground.

To schedule a private viewing appointment please email