Galleria Transylvania: Bringing Transylvanian crafts to upstate New York

Situated about half-way between New York City and Montreal is the small, picturesque city of Glens Falls, otherwise known as ‘Hometown U.S.A.’  In it’s downtown section of the city, a former textile mill called ‘The Shirt Factory’ is now home to Glens Falls’ thriving art community. Amongst the 50 working artists studios and galleries, including printmakers, potters, textile artists, photographers, woodworkers, and even a violin maker, is Galleria Transylvania, a shop and studio run by Transylvanian born Adela Tavares.

The gallery’s website proudly proclaims that its purpose since its inception has been ‘to make available to the American public the extraordinary arts and crafts of this east-central European nation… from traditional handicrafts made in remote villages to avant-garde works from internationally reknown artists.’ I was intrigued to find out more about the woman behind this project, her story and background and how Transylvanian crafts are received in this idyllic American city.

Adela Tavares (or Adela Teodora Langa as she was then known) grew up in Timişoara and early on expressed a passion for drawing. Encouraged by her parents’ good friend Romul Nutiu, the great artist and professor, she participated in private art classes and later enrolled in the Art High School in Timişoara.

It was just after finishing her studies at the Fine Arts College that she left for upstate New York with her American boyfriend (now husband) Jason Tavares. ‘I never planned on leaving Romania, I was content there but Jason was studying for his Ph.D so that was the only way to be together. I was 24, just finished college and had lived at home until then. It was very hard, I missed everything and everybody even though I was fascinated by America. Everything was bigger, the stores, the appliances, the trees.’

Despite her homesickness, Adela found life in America very liberating, especially in terms of her artistic output. She began painting a series of large-scale portraits of people she encountered in her life and travels . ‘People seemed to me very friendly, going to almost any public institution was a much more enjoyable experience than in Romania. Living in a different country or travelling to some extent opens you to a “different you”, a different way for you to be. So it was a combination of good and bad, so much so that the next year that we spent in Romania I missed a lot of my American life.’

It was Adela’s husband Jason who first came up with the idea of setting up Galleria Transylvania after they spent a year living together in Romania running a travel company which provided highly customized tours to small groups. ‘Traveling with him made me appreciate places and crafts in a different way. I noticed more and more the beauty of Romania and started to realize what makes it unique.’
They traveled to art fairs to collect Transylvanian crafts and spent time in the Horezu and Korund areas buying pottery directly from traditional artisans who have been passing on their craft knowledge for generations. ‘It seemed to me as a thriving artist community, many of them were participating in European art and craft fairs. They were using the old techniques but some of them were also adopting some newer, modern equipment. They were talking about the Horezu symbols: the rooster, the snake, the spiral. But also they seemed proud when they managed to combine the symbols in a new way and be creative.’
‘The most expensive part was bringing them here, a lot broke during transportation. Once we got the products back to America, they looked even better and I loved exhibiting them and answering people’s questions about them. People wanted to know the significance of the symbols, how are they made, how are they fired and glazed, etc. The pottery is a little rough and folk-like, and most people liked that about it.’
Despite settling in America with her Jason and her two-year old daughter, traditional Transylvanian crafts continue to greatly influence Adela’s work. She has recently started working with glass-painting inspired by Romanian religious folk icons. ‘I’m making my own compositions trying to keep the primitive feel. I find it restful as opposite to my usual painting process. My Romanian roots will always influence me both in how I paint and how I see things.’
‘I love Romania and miss it, but I realize that probably a part of what I miss is stuck in the past. Romania changed, I changed too, I used to belong completely there, now I’m sort of in between cultures, trying to make the best of it, but not belonging completely anywhere anymore. I like to be involved with the arts and crafts of Romania, I’m proud to show something that’s made there and it’s beautiful.’

To find out more, you can visit Adela Tavares’ website or the Galleria Transylvania website.

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2 responses to “Galleria Transylvania: Bringing Transylvanian crafts to upstate New York

  1. My goodness! The elderly lady’s portrait…she looks EXACTLY like my childhood friend’s grandmother, jokes aside, exactly like her…so amazing!

    Amazing story, thank you for sharing!

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