Chaffee Featured Artist: Donna Ciobanu

Chaffee Featured Artist: Donna Ciobanu

By Janelle Faignant

The light changed when Donna Ciobanu moved across the country from the west coast to the east, but it found its way into her paintings.

Eight years ago she and her husband moved from California to Vermont after their kids had grown and left home. They landed in Hubbardton with an old summer house to fix up and a farm to happily tend to.

“It’s been a big change for us,” she said in a recent phone conversation. But with the big life change came a happy surprise in her work – a chance to explore new color, form and values.

“Most of my paintings are mixed acrylic/oil,” she says in her artist statement. “Capturing the California and now the Vermont light is extremely important to me…Reinterpreting a landscape through vibrant color and intensity and capturing the essence of a memory and mood.”

“Getting inspired by nature is the main idea in my art,” she says. “I try to try new techniques, be influenced by new moods and create new objects, whether it’s in paint, fiber, glass or ceramic.”

She came to art later and life and said, “I started with landscape paintings and if you look on the website, my previous paintings are very different.”

“I was very secure in my landscape art and when I came here it was so different – the colors were different and the light was different. I started doing more portraits in the winter.”

Two years ago that evolved into collages and abstract paintings with a gold foil painting technique. “I guess because I missed the light,” she said.

Gold foil, a delicate metallic foil is added on top of her paintings to recreate the western light.

“You want to use it in a room where there’s no air draft because it will fly,” she said. “And you don’t want to sneeze when you apply it, it’s very thin.”

And one of her most unique mediums is barn windows.

“It’s acrylic on glass,” she said. “They’re not like stained glass, you can’t see light through it. The painting is on the window itself. I keep the structure of the window and paint on it.”

“The painted glass series represents an important step back to my roots,” she says. “It is an almost lost folk art of my native country. Most of the reverse paintings represent icons or biblical scenes.”

If it sounds more difficult than painting on canvas, it is.

“You need a primer and there’s not a lot of materials on the market that cater to the glass itself,” she explained.

A peaceful painting on her website called ‘Many Suns’ has the look of one done plein air, but she actually doesn’t paint plein air at all.

“I use photographs or images that I keep in my mind,” she said.

When she moved to the area she looked for art galleries and open artist calls and found the Chaffee.

“Sherri was very gracious and friendly so we talked a lot,” she recalled.

“I’m very happy that I found these outlets that are local and they’re active year round,” she said. “It’s amazing the effort these people put in to keep these artists groups together and all these programs and activities.”

It’s one important aspect that living in a big city didn’t offer.

“It’s on a much larger scale, nobody knows you,” she said. “You can’t make all these connections that I make here.”