Reigniting Childhood Imagination

Surrealist painting marries reality and fantasy

By Alison Isaacs
Photographs provided

Dip into a fantastic world of lore and fable, frolicking feelings and whimsical wandering through a series of paintings by Cristina Marian called, “Stories Without Words.”  Her surreal imaginings are an invitation to reunite with our inner childhood innocence and imagination.

Christina Marian concentrates on her artwork. (Photo credit: Eric Ian.)

At first glance, the onlooker sees a magnificent children’s book illustration. On deeper inspection, the viewer is within — within the painting and the self.

Where do such imaginings come from?

Premier surrealist extraordinaire Salvador Dali once said, “The fact that I myself, at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures, does not mean that these pictures have no meaning; on the contrary, their meaning is so profound, complex, coherent and involuntary that it escapes the most simple analysis of logical intuition.”

Marian begins a painting as abstract, allowing the paint to mingle and meld, forming an image before her eyes. She then breathes life into those images as her brush turns a blob into a bird and a trickle into a tree.

There are no pre-sketches for Marian. There is no predetermined imagery. The wonderland comes to life bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece like a mystery landscape puzzle, revealing itself to her in each brush stroke. At times she must stand back, turn the painting upside down or view it through a mirror to see what story it wishes to reveal to her next.

“In Her Place,” 4×4 acrylic on wood board.

Marian grew up in rural Romania. At age 9, she would walk to a neighboring village to receive instruction from a local artist. Her art teacher taught her to dig deep inside her imagination, to bring to sight the non-visual. This teacher inspired and encouraged her, then submitted the young artist’s work to international competitions, one of which she won when she was 12.

At 13, Marian moved to Bucharest, leaving her childhood home and family to live independently in the pursuit of her vision. Shortly after, her family home was destroyed by fire. Everything was lost. Cristina now relies on the therapy of her art to bring back childhood memories. It is through her painting that she reunites to that child lost so long ago.

“Intrinsecus,” 40×30, oil and collage on canvas.

What does the future hold? Marian considers her artwork to be “growing with the child, developing through the stages from childhood to adulthood.” What began as illustrations for a children’s book have grown into a surreal and deeply psychological pondering of reality.

It is evident that her art will be a further exploration into the mind of a child as that child begins to understand reality in a full and meaningful way.

When exploring her Bozeman, Montana, studio, it is obvious that her art will continue to grow in complexity of medium, incorporating sculpture, photography and digital imaging.

Equally obvious is a project also in the works. A successful Kickstarter project will soon bring to fruition a lifelong dream for Marian — her children’s book, “The Story Of Trav’ler Cloud,” is a tale of a young and adventurous cloud longing to know personally the land, plants, animals and people he blesses with his nourishing rains. E

Marian’s quest to reignite the splendor of innocence and imagination can be seen at, and on Instagram at @cristinamarianart.

(Pictured in header: “Every Day, Same Hour,” 8×8, acrylic on wood.)