The Verve: Surroundings fuel her passion for art

Oana Barac-Matei is a mixed-media artist. She has a degree in architecture and much of her artwork contains architectural and commercial elements. (Dan Pelle)
Oana Barac-Matei is a mixed-media artist. She has a degree in architecture and much of her artwork contains architectural and commercial elements. (Dan Pelle)

Goal since childhood has been design

Oana Barac-Matei was born in Romania. At age 6, she came to Spokane with her family for political freedom. Shortly after moving here, she was introduced to coloring.

“One of my first memories is my dad bringing my brother and I a sheet of paper with a bear to color,” she said. “It was my first knowledge of a sheet of coloring paper.”

She colored the bear to be entered in a contest at a local store and won first place in her age group. “I am sure it planted a seed,” she said.

Art and aesthetics became a constant in her life.

“In Romania, the government stressed education above sports and creative courses, so my parents wanted us to experience all the things they didn’t get to, and let us develop our own thoughts of what we enjoyed. I always responded best to art,” she said. She was quick to notice her surroundings, including the bright rugs made by her grandmother and the paintings done by her father’s cousin.

In the sixth grade, Barac-Matei recalls looking through architectural books and imagining being an interior designer or architect, creating pleasing environments for clients. All through middle school and high school, she created art, winning the occasional award and deciding on her future in aesthetics.

She studied architecture at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. In 2006, she received a bachelor’s degree in architecture and traveled to Europe, where for a couple of months she filled sketchbooks with drawings of landmarks and interesting places. She then moved to San Francisco, where she worked in her field, creating commercial and green building designs. When she heard of possible layoffs, her mind went to art because she was eager to make it. In 2009, she was laid off and decided to focus on her own creations.

She took a steady yet less-demanding administrative job at the American Institute of Architecture and dove into personal artistic endeavors. She rented an art studio, participated in exhibitions and even became a street artist one summer.

Her passion became documenting the buildings and places she was once so eager to design. Much of her work contains architectural elements – studies of shape, form and strength. It is her way of honoring people, by recording the places they congregate and experience life.

A year ago, Barac-Matei moved back to the Spokane area with her boyfriend. Working part time in interior and Web design, she is currently considering the many ways she can represent the cities, places and concepts that we all associate with home.

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