Adriana Eftimie’s oil paintings at the Feldman Family Artspace in the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, curated by Featherstone Center for the Arts, are a scintillating delight. Her breathtaking use of color and attention to the minutest detail moves you on a visceral level. On view through Nov. 5, “Sanctuary” is a love letter to the Island.
Although Eftimie has drawn since childhood, she didn’t discover painting until 2016, when she moved to Martha’s Vineyard from Romania, where she was born and raised. “Before then, I didn’t really understand colors,” she says, which is surprising given her mastery of this artistic element. Initially self-taught, Eftimie started with acrylics and went on to experiment with oils, watercolors, and gouache, but, “I just stuck with oils because they fit me,” she explains. Renowned oil portraitist Elizabeth Whelan became her mentor in 2021, and urged her to become a full-time artist.
“My goal as an artist is to create pieces that evoke positive emotions and inspire viewers to see the world in a fresh and captivating light,” Eftimie says. And indeed, her paintings do just that. Take “MV Sunset,” for instance. Here, she places us on the bridge between Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, overlooking the harbor. A spectacular sunset spreads out before us, whose heightened intensity is profoundly moving. Eftimie is brilliant in incorporating tiny details that make her art special, such as the small stroke of light that hits the Tisbury sign and illuminates the handrail at waist level, drawing our gaze into the distant background and balancing out the vast swath of water and the sky that rushes toward us.
Eftimie paints from photographs, sometimes going out in search of something interesting and at other times coming across a scene that catches her eye. “Island VIPs,” with its two endearing creatures from Island Alpaca, came from one such outing. Eftimie captures this mother and offspring with visible brushwork, revealing her artistic mastery in evoking the texture and nuances of their brown, tan, and gold coats, steering the picture away from any saccharine sentimentality. “I even added blues and greens, if you look closely. When you see it from a distance, I want you to think, ‘Oh, it’s a nice painting.’ But then, when you come close, I want you to see the brushstrokes. I’m reaching for that sense of spontaneity.”
We enter a sweeping fall scene in “A Glimpse into Eternity,” coming upon two wooden lawn chairs, backs to us, that sit like sentinels looking out over a vast vista of the tree-boarded property, with a glimpse of water in the far distance. The sky, however, is perhaps the star of the composition, with its roiling clouds signaling the oncoming storm.
At the other end of the spectrum is the entrancing stillness of Vineyard Haven Harbor when no wind ripples sails or the water’s surface in “September Moon,” which hints at the quiet that comes after the height of summer’s madness. “What I try to capture with all my paintings is the light, and to feel like everything works together,” says Eftimie.
In “Come Together,” she captures the unique magic of Illumination Night in Oak Bluffs, focusing like a portrait on a single decorated gingerbread cottage draped with delicately decorated lanterns. “This painting was from my first Illumination Night. It was something I’d never seen before, which was very special for someone from Romania, where we have different kinds of traditions.” She comments on how wonderful it is that the community comes together and sings. And while not central to the scene, you can see people milling about to the left. The Island community is very important to Eftimie. “The people here are very, very nice, and I’m grateful for every single one I’ve met, because they have been so supportive. And I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them,” she says.
Eftimie comes in very close to a bed of cornflowers in “Ambassadors of Summer,” creating a design that bursts with life. Like a group of rowdy children, each one vies for our attention. “I’m in love with oranges and yellows. They’re very inviting, so I find ways to incorporate them,” she laughs.
Perhaps most abstract, though, is “When Time Stood Still,” a quiet seascape with nothing but placid water, a tiny setting sun, and an enormous expanse of predominantly blue heavens. The shifts in colors are exquisitely subtle. “I get so many ideas. It’s a challenge to decide which one to chase. Here, I wanted a place of meditation. I like the way the waves are silenced by the sunset while the whole sky is open,” Eftimie comments. “I find myself chasing sunsets all the time.”
Speaking about the inspiration for the art in the exhibit, Eftimie says, “It’s impossible to find something you do not want to paint here. The first night I arrived on the ferry, it was just magic. The main purpose of the show is to pay homage to all the inspiration Martha’s Vineyard has offered me all these years.” Her love of the Vineyard shines through in “Sanctuary,” offering us our own respite, and increasing our feelings for this place we call home.
For more information on Eftimie’s work, visit adrianaeftimie.com.