Bulgarian artist to join UH Hilo this fall as visiting researcher

With Hawai‘i as her muse, doctoral candidate Medea Yankova will be researching the development of color in textile art from the 1960s to the present.

By Kara Nelson.

The artist painting at easel in garden. Three others walk in the garden.
Medea Yankova painting at the Via Pontica Art Festival, Balchik, 2012. Courtesy photo.
Medea Yankova
Medea Yankova

Bulgarian artist Medea Yankova, a doctoral candidate and assistant professor of painting  at the National Academy of Art–Sofia, will be joining the art department at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo as a visiting researcher. Yankova is a Fulbright scholar, awarded the “Non-Degree Scholarship for Doctoral Students,” which gives her a monthly stipend this fall from August to January as she continues research for her doctoral dissertation in color in textile art.

The talented artist was born in the small town of Smolyan. She graduated from the National School of Applied Arts “Saint Luca” in Sofia, with a specialty in textile art, the same specialty she pursued while earning her bachelor and master degrees at the National Academy of Art–Sofia.

Yankova was destined to study abroad. Her friend, a doctoral student at the same university, had an idea: what if she and Yankova both applied for the Fulbright Program? However, the deadline was looming in ten to fifteen days. While Yankova’s friend gave up with the tight deadline, Yankova persevered.

She says UH Hilo is the only institution that “responded really quickly” to her request for an invitation to be a visiting researcher.

A dissertation in color

The artist sits with scrolls hanging behind her.
Yankova gives the “shaka” at the Fusion Art Fest, Sofia, Bulgaria, 2015. Courtesy photo.

Yankova’s dissertation aims to give a complete summary of color’s development in textile art from the 1960s to the present.

“The theme of the dissertation gives many examples of various styles, artists, ways of color perceptions and different color theories, which have appeared during the history of color and art,” Yankova writes in her artist’s statement. “This theme will be of great use to help the students in the specialty (of) textile art and design.

Yankova is excited to begin her work in Hawai’i.

“Because I am a textile artist and a painter, beside the dissertation work which I will be writing and collecting information for in Hawai‘i, I also will do paintings and perhaps textile art, too, because I know that Hawai‘i is more than amazingly beautiful and (an) inspiring place for artists,” she says.

Hawai‘i calls

During four months in 2008, Yankova stayed in Kailua-Kona for a student program called “Work and Travel USA.” She didn’t get to immerse herself in her art during that trip, but dreamed of returning to Hawai‘i, enticed by its beauty.

“My dream has come true,” she says. “Five and a half years later I am getting ready to come to Hawai‘i to practice my profession and do the research. How wonderful is this?”

Yankova chose to do her research at UH Hilo because she believes she’ll find a great variety of information about textile art and color as well as inspiration.

“I know that Hawai‘i has its own traditions in basket weaving, macramé and dyeing textiles,” she writes in her artist’s statement.

“I am planning to paint while I am in Hawai‘i for opening an exhibition either if possible in Hawai’i or for sure afterwards in Bulgaria.”

Her big hope is to make a trip to the mainland to visit art galleries and museums for modern and contemporary art in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago as well as to visit the Faber Birren Collection of Books on Colour at the Robert B. Hass Family Arts Library at Yale University in Connecticut.

Becoming “a real artist”  

Recently, Yankova has been organizing her first solo exhibition, “Landscapes from Paris,” containing over 30 of her oil paintings, and is working on a personal website to showcase her art and projects.

After her upcoming stay at UH Hilo, she’ll be pursuing her talents even further. After receiving her PhD, she would like to become what she calls “a real artist” and share her knowledge with students at the National Academy of Art back home in Bulgaria.

The passionate artist has her own workshop so she can produce art “independently from any material circumstances” and she plans to do painting exhibitions as well as participate in art competitions, festivals, and plain air painting events both in Bulgaria and abroad.

Yankova’s presence will serve as an inspiration to UH Hilo students, faculty, and community members who meet her, since her passion is clearly for her art.

“I always loved drawing, painting, creating things with my own hands,” she says. “Since childhood I have always wanted to become an artist. So this I believe is the mission of my life. Once I heard that being a real artist is a way of life, I realized that I should dedicate all my life to this idea, otherwise I will be superficial. So this is my passion, my dream and my ambition, to manage to live by means of my art and say something important to the world through it.”


About the author of this story: Kara Nelson is a senior at UH Hilo double majoring in English and communication. She is an intern in the Office of the Chancellor and writer for UH Hilo Stories.

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