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Thursday, Nov. 21, was a big day for local artist Elena Bulatova: She celebrated the opening of her second gallery, this one in downtown Palm Springs, with a ribbon-cutting featuring Mayor Steve Pougnet.

The celebration continues from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 13, when Elena Bulatova Fine Art will hold a reception to celebrate the opening.

I first met Elena Bulatova at her Backstreet Art District gallery, at 2652 S. Cherokee Way. I was impressed by her work, her international lifestyle and her world-class education. The first gallery has been a success for Bulatova; she’s now in her third season in Palm Springs. Not bad for a relatively new arrival in the desert.

Bulatova credited her parents for exposing her to various art museums during their travels. She honed her skills with seven years in art school; she painted, danced and even played the violin in the chamber orchestra at Moscow State University. She then came to the United States to study economics at Yale.

“To be a successful artist, it is not just knowing how to paint,” she told me during an email conversation. “Running the galleries is separate business that includes managing people, client relations, marketing, social media, contacts with press, accounting, financial planning, etc. Success doesn’t come overnight, and many years of studies … helped me to grow in my career as an artist.”

Her art is bright and vivid, often featuring perfect compositions. While she works mostly with primary colors, she also has a series of muted, darker mixed-media works with an iridescent metallic quality. The new Palm Canyon Drive gallery boasts new hand-blown glass pieces, adding a dramatic element to the high ceilings and open space in this unique building across from the Hyatt.

The new gallery will also show carved paintings on panel and bronze sculptures by Delos Van Earl; Larry Weitz’s abstract paintings; and “screw art” by Efraim Mashiah. Starting in January, the gallery will also host monthly exhibitions.

I asked her who was collecting her art.

“My paintings can be found in many private collections, locally in California and all over U.S., but we see a lot of international tourists coming from different countries to Palm Springs,” she said via email. “I shipped paintings to Canada, Mexico, Australia and Europe.”

Why did this woman who grew up in Russia choose the desert as the place to make and sell her art? Why not a place like, say, Miami? (In fact, she’s taking part in the Red Dot Art Fair in Miami right now, in conjunction with Miami Beach’s world-famous Art Basel show.)

“I think the desert art scene has a lot of potential,” she told me, later adding that Miami has too many distractions compared to the relative serenity of the desert. “Palm Springs is very close to Los Angeles, and there are a lot of people visiting. Miami once became a hub for contemporary artists with the coming of Art Basel to the city, which grew in 10 years and attracted numerous satellite fairs and artists to relocate there. We (have) the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, and its third season is coming. There are already a lot of creative people here—and more coming.”

Bulatova said she opened the second gallery because of the growth in the art industry and because of the potential of Palm Springs. She found the new location, took a month to remodel it, and presto: The new gallery came to be.

There is no doubt in my mind that the new gallery will bring much success to Bulatova—and allow more people to experience her wonderful art.

Elena Bulatova Fine Art’s new downtown Palm Springs location is located at 232 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., with extended hours on Thursdays during Palm Springs VillageFest. An opening reception will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13. For more information, call 760-600-0417, or visit www.ElenaBulatovaFineArt.com.

Published in Visual Arts

The Backstreet Art District is nestled at the foot of the mountains, predominantly in a midcentury dwelling that includes various galleries and decorative-arts businesses. The structure alone is worth a visit to see a segment of the modern architecture with which Palm Springs has become synonymous.

Located on Cherokee Drive (behind Mercedes-Benz of Palm Springs on East Palm Canyon Drive), the Backstreet Art District, despite some tough times, continues to flourish and evolve. This hidden gem features arts and crafts by genuine local artists—and on the first Wednesday of every month, the galleries host an art walk that is open to all.

The ugly recession led to tough times at this vibrant, colorful destination. Some previous anchor galleries have moved to locations that offer more foot traffic—but exciting new tenants have set up shop in this special enclave. The new occupants offer an international flair, as well as world-class portfolios.

One such person is Elena Bulatova, of Elena Bulatova Studios. Originally from Russia, she has an impressive résumé in both art and music (as a violinist). She graduated from Moscow State University and continued her studies in the United States; she received a doctorate degree from MSU and Yale. She splits her time between Palm Springs and Miami.

Another newcomer is Francisco Totó Vargas. Originally from Chile, Francisco creates translucent acrylic paintings on canvas in his studio gallery. He relocated to Palm Springs from New York, where he studied art at the Art Institute of New York City; he later became a member of the faculty there. Francisco’s talents include producing film documentaries, too.

His gallery, Wind of Art, showcases his works, as well as the creations of two artists that he represents. One is acclaimed glass-painter Ulla Darni, whose bright, vivid glass paintings bring a unique art form to the airy, well-lit space. The other, Bill Matlock, creates intricate renditions of ordinary objects, giving them an elated, romantic stance.

Another renovated space rivals any of the tony studios located in the chic Culver City Art District: Jackson Gallery. Owner/artist Al Jackson creates appealing imagery with clean lines and self-assured strokes. He can often be found painting while visitors enjoy his works, which hang against pristine white walls rising from newly polished concrete floors.

The collection at the well-coordinated Haya Gil Gallery is modern, unique and colorful. Haya Gil-Lubin carries art that is reminiscent of famous works seen in big-city modern and abstract collections. Haya is a dedicated gallerist who seems to be the “mayor” of Backstreet Art District; she resides in Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Her gallery is an anchor for the center, and she herself has a strong following thanks to her “Photograms.”

Artize is another new presence, located where Heath Gallery once existed. Owner Kelly Truscott maintains the modern space with original works by artists that she represents exclusively. The selections are varied, with contemporary works as well as works in other genres, including miniature paintings of our famous local vistas.

The newcomers have joined established galleries such as Studio D, where artist-owner Downs has been creating art works on canvas. His methodology is unique: He often applies 400 to 500 layers of paint, encompassing various thickness and transparencies, bringing energy and a sense of action to his paintings.

Then there’s Bill Anson Gallery, where decorative art and sculptures reign in a space that takes visitors back to another epoch within the Coachella Valley. The works are rustic with a Southwestern vibe.

In this same gallery, another painter showcases her talented strokes on canvas. Jessica Schiffman specializes in creating well-crafted images of textural landscapes and abstract interpretations of natural outdoor scenes. She is a product of the San Francisco Art Institute and has illustrated 16 childrens’ books for various publishers. Her paintings are collected by an international audience.

Palm Springs has become a destination for world class art personalities—and the Backstreet Art District is one of the best places in the valley to meet some of them.

Richard Almada is the CEO and president of Artistic Relations, and heads up Desert Art Tours. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Visual Arts