Enter the colorful world of Elena Bulatova and make no mistake about this remarkable young artist: she is one of the fastest rising stars in the art world. Sound like hyperbole? One quickly finds that everything about Russian-born Elena is larger than life, especially the wild success of her paintings and sculptures.
Begin with colorful twelve feet high resin and wood lollipops from her “Sweet Life” series or new pieces juxtaposing The Wall Street Journal with comic book super heroes. “I wanted to bring heroes into a dark situation. They give us hope and optimism with their superhuman powers,” she says of these works that were inspired when Elena noticed dire articles in the WSJ next to ads plugging luxurious products. That irony has been incorporated into her artwork. “Art should bring joy and help relieve your worries,” the 34-year old Elena says.
And why is this multifaceted painter found reading the WSJ? Her degree in economics from Moscow State University and the pursuit of a PhD in Economics from Yale, where she received a prestigious fellowship, answers one question about how the prolific Elena has, within a few short years, built an art empire. She embodies the perfect marriage of creativity with business acumen. With unusual and unique new works and a pulse on today’s art market, she has successfully opened four galleries in as many years. The latest one in the exclusive art community of Laguna Beach, California follows her biggest opening yet at the posh Aria in Las Vegas, and two in the Palm Springs area of California near where her studio is located.
While studying at the Ivy League school, Elena began to paint again as a hobby. But then, from her little studio, people began buying her paintings. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t any training. Her childhood was full of introductions to art that is an important part of the Russian culture. Elena’s parents, both engineers in Russia, enrolled her in art school after she began spontaneously painting at age six. While there she became proficient on the violin and an excellent dancer. By the time she attended Moscow State University she was in the dancing company and playing violin in the chamber orchestra. But it was in America that Elena began to realize her calling.
“I feel free in California compared to Moscow. America brought me my creativity.”
Within a year of leaving Yale and meeting her husband and business partner, Efi Mashiah, a thriving art dealer, Elena opened the largest gallery in Palm Springs. Efi encouraged her to branch out into cutting edge pop art-- recycled golf club sculptures, giant popsicles and lollipops in vibrant bold colors.
The sheer variety and extent of her work is astonishing. The first year of Elena’s gallery opened in Palm Springs, her pieces caught the attention of collectors around the world and she sold over 100 paintings. “It doesn’t feel like work,” she says, “because I love it so much.”
Her bright vivid works carry the message Elena intends: “My art is a spiritual journey where color and form communicate visions emerging from my soul.” The influences of Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky and American, Jackson Pollock are evident in her abstract multi-media paintings that flow with spontaneity, energy and light. “There is the impression of spontaneity but careful planning goes into each piece, oftentimes because their large size demands it,” Bulatova says. One artist at her Palm Springs opening called her paintings, “Cosmic Pow.” And he isn’t the only one using these expressions to define Elena’s art. “There is an excitement that is bold and fresh,” says another leading artist.
Her work has been featured in Architectural Digest and many art magazines, exhibited in the South Nevada Museum of Art, Naples Museum of Art, the Biennale in Miami and art fairs up and down the California coast. Several hotels including the Hyatt are collectors of her sculptures. Two new resorts in Guadalajara and Cabo San Lucas will display Elena’s large commissioned sculptures. Her paintings grace private collections across the globe.
Having been encouraged by her husband, Efi, Elena now repays the gift by offering him the same support. His impressive wall sculptures, made entirely of multi-colored painted screws depicting familiar objects and faces are prominently displayed in all four galleries. And now, it is a family affair, for Elena collaborates with her sister and Efi’s sister to help them define in their art what the market is yearning for, and includes their creations in her galleries as well.
It is not hard to find yourself falling in love with Elena’s art and her sensibility. Recently, she was asked to paint an equestrian-themed piece for a Cystic Fibrosis benefit at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. After much research about horses and racing, she painted a large canvas, but ran out of time. She framed it and rushed the painting to the event for it to be auctioned off even though it was still wet. “The purpose of creating art is to share something beautiful with the world. All my work is bright and positive.”
The Mayor of Palm Springs was ebullient about Elena’s work and trajectory as an art world star at the gallery opening: “Elena represents that anything is possible,” he said. As she continues to grow and challenge herself with bold moves, such as opening the fourth Elena Bulatova Gallery in Laguna Beach, she is a living example of her unwavering rock-solid message. “You should always believe in yourself. Make goals. Pursue them. Don’t listen to the people who discourage you.”
If art is expression, the only word to explain the meteoric rise of this exquisite artist and the magic and glamour of her work would be: astounding.