Romanian Painter Who Adopted America

Georgette Sinclair, Artist with Lost Roots, Seeks Visual Poetry in Nature

David Stone

It may be that a kind of rootless awareness lies at the core of Georgette Sinclair's art. Her paintings anchor in the soothing poetic clarity of nature. Her craft came to her spontaneously when, as a child, she began drawing pictures of her father's tools, an act perhaps more meaningful than anyone knew at the time.

At work in the Adirondacks
At work in the Adirondacks

Separation from her roots is as much a theme of Georgette Sinclair's life as is her passion for expressing visually emotional responses to nature.

(Georgette Sinclair's solo exhibit Reflections of Night and Day opens at the Octagon Gallery on October 14th.)

As a two year old barely out of infancy in the Transylvanian town of Alba-Iulia, she was adopted by a carpenter and his wife. Her new Dad made frames for a local artist, and after witnessing her untaught skills, he took her to the artist's studio.

Night Life
Night Life

“It was the first studio I saw in my life," Sinclair recalls, "and I still have that image so fresh in my mind, like it was yesterday. I was so impressed by the size of the paintings he was working on, by the smell of the paints and abundance of colors that, in that moment, I wished I lived there forever.” 

That wish could not be fulfilled.

Growing up in a Christian family in dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu's Romania, separation again haunted Sinclair's development. Taking lessons from an impoverished nun in a land where religions were banned, she grew up concealing some of her art and her family's Catholicism.

More dramatic was a move to New York and Roosevelt Island, following her husband George in search of a better life.

Peeking Through the Night
Peeking Through the Night

It was 1987, and as Sinclair recalls, “When you left Romania then, you were never coming back.”

While they allowed her family to leave, the communist authorities refused to allow them to bring items as simple as the old Roman coins she’d dug up in her father’s garden as a child and saved, but neither was she allowed to carry documents, birth certificates and diplomas, taken for granted as a right of citizenship elsewhere.

“When we got here, we had nothing.”

Invigorated by the contrasts of her new home where fruit stands were piled high with oranges and apples after standing in bread lines in Romania, she sat with her family as they picked a new name from slips of paper dropped in a hat.

From that day, she and her family were "Sinclair," taking a Scottish surname and leaving another connection to Romania behind.

She also left painting behind, going to school to start a new career and finally earning a doctorate in audiology.

Raising Alex, now a salesman, and Adela, a teacher, while pursuing her career was another extended separation from her past.

Queensboro Bridge at Night
Queensboro Bridge at Night

Then, twenty years ago, a client brought inspiration back to her.

“What do you like to do for yourself?” the client asked

“I didn’t know what to say,” Sinclair recalls.

“Don’t you have a passion?” he persisted.

“I used to do painting,” she answered.

“So, what happened to it?”

 

That serendipitous moment led to her beginning classes at the Art Students League and a parallel career as an artist whose pastels are regularly shown at the Salmagundi Club, where she has served as a Vice President, and at Gallery RIVAA, where she's currently Treasurer.

Completing the Circle

Untitled
Untitled

Times change.

With Ceaușescu gone, replaced by a representative democracy, Sinclair was able to return to Romania, after many years.

“I fell in love again and again with haystacks, gold fields of wheat and sunflowers, hills and mountains, creeks and lakes, people that keep the life tradition going on," she says. "This is where I found my peace..."

At a free opening reception for Reflections of Night and Day, you'll get a chance to see that her art has become richer, but Sinclair has taken another step in completing the circle of her artistic life, becoming teacher to her granddaughter Olivia.

Olivia starting painting, including decorative objects at 1 year and 7 months. She showed her work for the first time as Gallery RIVAA's youngest ever artist at age 2.

Come to the reception. Meet the artist and, if we're lucky, her talented protege. 

Georgette and Olivia Sinclair
Georgette and Olivia Sinclair