"Art is not just about another beautiful painting that matches your dining room floor. Art has to be disturbing, art has to ask a question, art has to predict the future."
I am a multicultural visual artist who has been a lifelong traveller not having quite figured out a place to call “home” yet. I spent my childhood in Bulgaria, my university years in Cambridge, England and my adult life here in the States. Having to assimilate to different cultures, I often feel as though I am a foreigner in the new land while simultaneously feeling like a stranger in the old. I constantly grapple with the notion of belonging, identity and diaspora.
Social psychologists have long been examining the sense of community people desire, the importance of the "tribe", that is evident in human evolution. I am finding my purpose and identity through creating art and meeting people who are pursuing their dreams, like I am mine as I finally took the step to do what I truly love and do not even consider "work": creating art full time.
My work focuses on faces and their expressions. They are painted in vibrant colours in some or black and white shades, occasionally with one additional colour, in others.
The faces in my paintings do not smile - they either shout or stare at the viewer expressionless, which could be an expression of a thousand feelings. Most of my paintings are created on canvas and mostly oils and acrylics are used for rich textures and layers. For other paintings I use acrylic inks and charcoal on paper to create my subjects with thinner lines and more detail.
A lot of my inspiration comes from Bulgarian folklore, as well as my own frustrations with society that evoke certain emotions in me. And I also just like to paint. It is fun. I find art to be healing and a great source of positive energy, regardless if the painting is a still human face or a screaming demon. The unnatural abstract shapes and chaos in my paintings make me feel at peace; the screaming faces relax me and put me at ease.
More about Bulgarian Folklore
Bulgarian Folklore has shaped my childhood and early understanding of "monsters". The video that you see above is from the Surva Festival in Pernik, Bulgaria, where kukeri come to the streets to perform rituals that have been handed down over thousands of years.
The word ‘kuker’ comes from Latin (‘cuculla,’ meaning a ‘hood’) and it denotes a folkloric ritual monster, a person dressed in an elaborate suit of fur and ribbons, feathers and beads. These kukeri wear carved wooden masks with the faces of beasts and birds; hanging heavy copper or bronze bells around their waists as they dance and jump in arcane rituals intended to dispel the evil spirits which might otherwise bring “loshotiya”, or ill fortune, to a community, and invite the good.
So the Surva Festival of Masquerade Games at Pernik was started in 1966, then celebrated every other year until 2009; at which point it became an annual event. As many as 5,000 performers appear in the festival each year, and since 1985 the event has been welcoming international entries too – with teams arriving from Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Albania and Greece. Some performers come from still further afield, including past entries from Palestine, Spain and even Indonesia. Perhaps that is one of the reasons you can see "scary" or eerie abstracted faces in my art. I regard them as friends and protectors rather than anything else.
The costumes, traditions, performances and even the date of these festivities vary from one end of Bulgaria to the other. Roughly, the kukeri arrive between Christmas and Epiphany (on 6th January).