Art Fridays: Studio Visit with Artist and Playwright Oana Maria Cajal
Updated: Mar 23
A Transcultural Experience
Our Art Fridays series continues with a colourful, revelatory portrait of Oana Maria Cajal, the Montreal-based, Romanian-American visual artist, award wining playwright, screenwriter, and poet whose flaring imagination and polymorphous talent have been recognized with many accolades and prizes in North America and Europe. Born in Bucharest, under the mesmerizing gaze of Brancusi's Miss Pogany, the soul of her grandfather's art collection and her inspiring Muse for life, Oana Maria Cajal immigrated to the United States in 1980 upon receiving a grant from the American Theatre Association. She attended the Ph.D. Theatre Criticism program at New York's City University and then moved to California where she obtained her M.F.A. in Playwriting from University of California San Diego (UCSD). Her first play, “East European Tetralogy”, was nominated by the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle for Best New Play of the year, 1986. Most of Oana’s plays were produced and well received in cities across America. Among them “Berlin/Berlin”, “Exchange at Cafe Mimosa”, “The Almond Seller”, “The Enduring Legend of Marinka Pinka and Tommy Atomic”, “Waiting for Godot to Leave”.
Oana Maria Cajal is a Fulbright scholar and a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship and many art prizes. She is also a member of Dramatists Guild of America, Writers Union of Romania, Theater Union of Romania (UNITER), the Union of Fine Artists of Romania, Playwrights Workshop Montreal, and Playwrights Guild of Canada.
Her play, “The Last Pact” was voted “Best Play of 2011” by UNITER.
Oana’s screenplay for the feature film “The White Gate” was nominated for the Gopo Awards, 2015.
Over the last years Oana’s versatile creative powers focused on visual arts. Following “Solenodon”, a volume of Picto-Poems where words and graphics coexist in perfect symbiosis, Oana decided that instead of writing her plays she was going to paint them. This is how the series “Posters for Unwritten Plays” was born. The original artwork consists of 40 paintings (acrylic on canvas) that later expanded their dramatic structure in a novel form of Picto-Collages (New Media Art).
All of them appear in the art and theatre volume Posters for Unwritten Plays, the first publication of its kind in the world.
Oana believes that “everyone is a potential artist and everyone can create their own play. The password is 'Just imagine!'. Imagination is freedom and salvation.”
Her prolific activity as a visual artist extended over the years in many solo exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Romania, even though her yearning for a sense of belonging somewhere was never reconciled. She is calling her art space a “Transcultural Gastropod Studio”.
Oana lives in Montreal with her husband Stefan, their daughter Annya and their pets, Firenze and Dr. Seuss. As the pandemic raged on, she found herself captive in a magic garden somewhere in Quebec, in Saint Sauveur des Monts.
Oana Maria Cajal: ”I named that place my Essential Library and Sacred Space. There, I have discovered that the more I turn to Nature, the more I understand everything. There I have discovered that just like a gastropod carrying its house, I carry the inspiring lived spaces of my life within my being, and they are now blending together in an unique way.
Living in Sync with Nature, with its peace and wisdom, I finally found my authentic self. Here, in the mirror of nature, the play I had promised to the legendary Ellen Stewart a long time ago is finally coming to light: “Pushcart to Heaven - A Divine Mystery in Pandemic Times”. Abelard and Heloise, the celebrated medieval lovers separated forever in history are conjured by Ellen under the open sky to come together once more and teach us that love transcends all barriers and distances. Love will show us a new way of finding our soul of re-creating the true magic of theatre, even in the kingdom of virtual happenings. LOVE, ART, THEATRE and EMPATHY."
Protean Oana Maria Cajal in the Art Fridays Series (2021)
Find out more about Oana Maria Cajal