Art Imitating Life Lived From The Heart | Irina Negulescu

October 26, 2023
As you step inside The iN Gallery in San Diego, you’re immediately embraced by the vibrant spectrum of colors featured in Irina Negulescu’s expressionistic works. But in the embrace, you’ll begin to feel the flow and movement of her two main subjects, which harken back to her earliest influences as an artist.
Where It All Started
Growing up in Constanta, Romania, she fell in love with art over time, watching her self-taught mother bring art into homes and schools in the area.

She [Negulescu’s mother] used to go into people’s homes and paint murals,” she said. “In schools, [she would] paint for children and paint on the walls. She never put a brush in my hand. I picked up her talent [and] through that time, I fell in love with art.

With her mother working to provide for herself and her sisters, Negulescu spent time as a child and teenager immersed in the Black Sea, across the street from her home. She and her friends learned and taught one another how to swim and dive while enjoying childhood games.


The natural access she had to water and female influence and representation with her mother and sisters has always held a special place in her artwork.

When I paint the female [form] and the water, I feel like it’s home to me, like it’s my safe space,” Negulescu said. “It all comes together.

An Artistic Education
After high school, she attended Universitatea Populara de Arta, a distinguished art school in Constanza. There she officially learned how to draw and paint the female figure. Along with drawing and painting, she grew as an artist with other classes in languages, sculpture, and graphic arts. But the school’s lack of funding for an in-class female model stretched her natural skills.

“It was too cold for a model to take her clothes off, so the teacher said, ‘OK, you all rotate with the clothes on, and if you’re a good artist, you know how to undress the subject,” she said.

Her paintings are known for their depth, created through her use of dramatic brush strokes brought to life by the acrylic on canvas medium. This example of her artistic expression is one faucet that brought her recognition and awards in San Diego and her home country long before becoming a full-time artist.


Most of her acrylic-on-canvas artwork follows the Expressionist style. Yet, Negulescu takes inspiration and influence from her Romanian roots and experiences growing up next to the Black Sea in Constanta, Romania. Alluring reds, captivating blues, and enchanting greens blend and draw the viewer into the dynamic depths.

The Master of Modern Art

After immigrating to the United States, further education at Mesa College and San Diego State University, along with painting murals for hire in San Diego homes, allowed her to truly refine her skills. Then, what started as guest exhibitions at The Emerald Hotel grew into three-, two-, then one-person shows, fueled by Negulescu’s natural ambition.


Her work is internationally known and renowned, winning numerous first-place and grand-prize awards. She has been featured on the covers of art and fashion magazines and has appeared on San Diego and Romanian television shows. Thousands of Americans were introduced to her captivating work during a feature on HGTV’s ‘Pageants of the Masters’ which spotlighted “Masters of Modern Art.

Taking Over The San Diego Art Scene
Her journey to San Diego began when she and her high school sweetheart got married. Living under a communist regime in Romania, her husband had plans to defect if the opportunity arose. But, the couple found out they were pregnant when her husband had the chance to go to Spain as a sailor.

“I supported his plan, but it took longer than we thought — it took three years,” she said. “I gave birth alone in Romania and came with a two-year-old boy to reunite with my husband.”

The reunion finally came to fruition after her husband was granted political asylum in Spain. He was sponsored by his family living in New York. Once she received her passport from the Romanian authorities, they reunited in New York.

“We didn’t stay long in New York,” she said. “We moved to San Diego. Of course, the ocean, the water attracted me, so we had to come here.”

Although she was a young mother, Negulescu was full of energy, passion, and ambition. Art was still at the forefront of her life as she continued her education at Mesa College and San Diego State University. Following her mother’s footsteps, she also painted murals in people’s San Diego area homes and exhibited them in small restaurant galleries.


The artistic dreams kept growing. As a banquet waitressat what was then The Emerald in San Diego, she saw the work of other artists’ exhibited at the hotel entrance and knew her work belonged there. She exhibited her art as a guest artist at The Emerald but didn’t allow her dream to be confined, desiring a one-woman show.

“I joined the La Jolla Art Association. They started with a three-man show, two-man show, and finally, a few years later, a one-man show,” she said. “After I had my one-woman show, my dreams got bigger again.”

Irina’s Gallery Evolution
Wanting her own space to create and exhibit, Negulescu moved into a “beautiful space but very small [at] 400 square feet” in the Little Italy neighborhood. Surrounded by other artists in the area, she opened Negulescu Fine Art, featuring her studio in the back.

“I had my beautiful women swimming underwater in the back and my little easel,” she said. “I would paint, and people would come in and admire my work.”

The iN Gallery has been at its current location, 1878 Main Street, #D, since 2016, its existence began in the Little Italy neighborhood in 2010. She and the other area artists organized art exhibits once-a-month to welcome other artists and enthusiasts.


Though their exhibits were popular and well-received, she and others began to feel the pinch of an increasingly expensive area. But never one to let a circumstance stand in the way, Negulescu springboarded herself into a warehouse in the Barrio Logan district in 2016.

“Now here I am with 2,000 square feet of space, having guest artists and my work on the walls,” she said.

After years of slowly but steadily establishing herself through small exhibitions and two- and three-person shows, Negulescu has created an entirely new space.


Other artists eventually joined her in the Barrio Logan, with everyone collaborating to bring back once-a-month art walks, aptly dubbed ‘Barrio Nights.’ Her gallery has previously hosted a variety of events and exhibitions at the gallery for fellow artists, upcoming artists, and local musicians.


Past exhibitions and receptions have featured visual and musical works by local and international artists, such as Italian harpist Chiara Capobianco, mixed media artist Caroline Brun, and a night of standup comedy from the Les Jolies Comedy Production.

Events feature music, finger foods, and a bar for of-age guests. Children are welcome, but parents are encouraged to use their discretion.

Amplifying The Creative Works of San Diego Artists

With her working studio in the back of the gallery, visitors can sometimes see her art develop in real-time. The 2,000-square-foot warehouse-turned-art gallery regularly hosts area art enthusiasts and one-time visitors during the monthly Barrio Nights art walk. The art walk is held on the second Saturday of every month and is one of several regular events hosted at the gallery.


Past exhibitions and receptions have featured visual and musical works by local and international artists, such as Italian harpist Chiara Capobianco, mixed media artist Caroline Brun, and a night of standup comedy from the Les Jolies Comedy Production.


Events feature music, finger foods, and a bar for of-age guests. Children are welcome, but parents are encouraged to use their discretion.

The iN Gallery Events: Fashion Shows, Art Exhibits, and More

Black Carpet Fashion Show and Art Exhibit

Attendees admired wearable art from fashion designer, artist, and model Irina Madan while soaking in the ethereal melodies of harpist Chiara Capobianco. Blues music from gifted musician Elie Haddad followed the fashion show. The exhibition featured works by Alkaaby, Leah Bassett, Jeffery Carr, Likomanov, Tom Olsen, Michael Walrond, Al-Sindy, and Negulescu.

Caroline Brun

Guests were treated to a sensual experience during Caroline Brun’s exhibition. The mixed media artist and wine communication professional use acrylic paint and private material from the Champagne region and its vinification process. Laura Ciorei and Elie Haddad amplified the evening with musical performances.

Amie Dignan

An evening of love was anchored inside and out of the gallery by the works of up-and-coming artist Amie Dignan with her exhibition titled ‘Love Is…’ Sculptor Ian Siso delighted attendees with a live sculpture as musicians Markodarko, Mathew Brian, Disco Peni Lane, and Nasirin provided delightful performances.

Misery Loves Company

Six fantastic comedians with the Les Jolies Comedy Production left guests with split sides during a one-night event. Attendees also enjoyed chocolates by local chocolatier Rayluca Bakes and the paintings and sculptures on display for the sensuality exhibition.

Visiting The iN Gallery

Guests are encouraged to visit the gallery website or inquire about upcoming exhibitions and receptions by email or telephone. While most are low-key affairs without a dress code, others are a touch high brow as attendees are invited to dress their best in the presence of photographers and videographers.


Coldea Productions was privileged to work closely with Irina to showcase her exquisite gallery and highlight her one-of-a-kind masterpieces. It’s inspiring to other creative entities like us to see the artistic process come to life in a new way. We’re proud to share the story of yet another World Trailblazer making their mark.

“I encourage people to come and see the space. See the colors in real life because, on the internet, it looks different,” Irina said.

A high-resolution computer monitor can’t do justice to the vibrancy and depth of the paintings and experience at The iN Gallery. Contact the gallery to schedule an appointment to view her work and other San Diego artists. It’s also available to host public or private events.


Cristian Coldea
Cristian Coldea
Chiron Martini
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