Photo by Lily Lagrange

Artistic Odyssey: Mariana Kalacheva is on a journey of exploration and expression

Growing up in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Mariana Kalacheva was under the impression that all children came home every day after school to spend hours sketching and painting, exploding with inspiration from the magic and fairy tales of children’s books. Today, her extensive body of art, though evolved and impressive in range, maintains that original thread of whimsy and enchantment.

Sitting in her tiny new studio off Perkins Road, the internationally esteemed artist shares the way fairy tales have continued to work in her life and her art. She tells of how she came to America for the first time in June 2017 to visit a friend, a part-Italian/part-Bulgarian Baton Rougean who owned a gelato shop. After postponing her flight twice, she married him last August.

Today, as Kalacheva awaits the process of becoming an American citizen, she says she has enjoyed immersing herself in this new culture, and all of the growth that it inspires in her art. “I am using this time to challenge myself,” she says. “To get to know something new, to meet new people. To learn about this culture a little more. I believe the next level for me is to change a little in my art, to grow as I pass through this different place. Baton Rouge can be a new stamp on my work.”

Kalacheva’s paintings range from figurative portraits of women and couples, sensuous and captivating in their rich colors and sharp detail, to her “little figures” in the naïve style, humoresque and full of cat balloons and dancing poppies. Her art has been featured in exhibitions in France, Monaco, Austria, Spain and, most recently, in the Caffery Gallery here in Baton Rouge.

“Usually I am working with oil paints, and sometimes I mix in acrylics,” she says. “I often mix techniques, adding paste structure or ceramics. I love the interaction with different materials. But what I really love is color.”

Inspired deeply by travel, by fairy tales and by people, Kalacheva says most of her best ideas come to her completely unexpectedly. “I sometimes think I receive facts from the sky,” she describes. “I always have pencils and paper next to me. Often I get an idea out of nowhere, and I’ve got to get it down. Otherwise it will fly away.”

A recent painting of hers, called “The Sky Has No Limits,” really illustrates her place as an artist right now in Baton Rouge, she says. “Sometimes you see the problems right in front of you instead of the bigger picture,” she says. “When you look at the greater scenery, every small problem is nothing. There are no limits, especially when you believe in your dreams.”