Hardship in Romania Irina never knew Romania other than as a communist country. Raised by the Black Sea in her native town of Constanta, she knew hardship early on as her grandparents both died leaving her under the care of an alcoholic mother. “I have a horror for alcohol. I don’t like to be around drunks,” says Irina. As the eldest daughter she tried to handle the difficulties of her life and care for her younger siblings, but at seventeen she could not take it anymore and ran away from home to escape an abusive stepfather.
Irina learned how to accurately imagine the female form even when the model was not nude – she learned to “undress with her eyes.” Her passion for art firmly entrenched, she set out to live her life the best she could while hoping for a better future. Eventually, her sailor husband decided to make an escape by getting off a ship in Spain and making his way to the United States. The day he left she found out she was pregnant with their child. She had no choice but to wait until he could request Irina and their child to join him, and she could then leave the country legally.
At age 5, Irina would secretly draw on the walls behind her family’s furniture, under the table and on the back of every book she would find in the house. She had acquired a passion for painting, but in Romania only the three primary colors were available: red, yellow and blue. Irina learned how to mix the primary colors to make secondary colors, and then mix those to achieve tertiary colors. “The first time I went to an art store in America I could not believe the magnitude of choices for colors. The pink pastels – I wanted to eat them.” Although schools were free in Romania until 12th grade, she worked in computer data entry and as a puppeteer to raise the money required for a private college. She studied English, French, and Art. She also met the man that was to become her husband, provide her with stability, and eventually bring her to the United States.
After years of separation from her husband and the birth of a son she finally got permission to come to the United States, where her husband had relatives in New York City. After one year, they decided to move to San Diego where they lived together until their divorce in 2002. They had an amicable separation, and continue to keep their son’s interests in mind by encouraging him to persevere in life and reach his goals. Their son Liviu serves for the US Navy, and is currently in active intelligence duty in the Persian Gulf. Irina fit in New York immediately, and at times wonders what might have been if she had remained there. “In New York I would grow, there is a lot of competition but I would be challenged.” San Diego is not as large as New York, therefore art is not promoted and glamorized in the same fashion.
In Romania Irina studied how to draw and paint the female figure, but because it was a third world country and sexual education didn’t exist she had to take classes with female nudes behind closed doors in secrecy. Often there was no electricity and the models didn’t always disrobe, thus keeping much of their clothes on.
Irina paints in all mediums including pastels, watercolors, acrylics and oils. She paints murals which can be quite lucrative but paintings give her the most satisfaction.” I love violets and blues and deep reds. I never use the color black – pure black looks like a hole to me, nothingness. I would rather mix three or four colors to
Life in San Diego
Published on Dec 7, 2011
The arts can be an extraordinary vehicle for education and multi-cultural understanding, as well as a source of beauty and inspiration. Cove...