The City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs presents the upcoming exhibition, Let Our Voices Emerge: Paintings by Olga Stamatiou. This exhibition, curated by Maureen Morrisette, will be displayed at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park from March 23rd until April 28th. The opening reception is from 5pm until 7pm on Saturday, March 23rd. Stamatiou will be hosting a lecture at the gallery April 14th at 3pm. Dr. Helen Delfeld, assistant professor at the College of Charleston, will give a lecture on gender issues at the gallery April 7th at 3pm. The exhibition,opening, reception, and lectures are all free and open to the public.
Let Our Voices Emerge combines oil paintings by Olga Stamatiou with a curated selection of videos from the Women’s Voices Now Film Festival to create an exhibit that examines women’s rights and self-expression. Utilizing thought- provoking imagery and strong symbols, Stamatiou uses art to convey a message about women’s invisibility worldwide.
Inspired by demonstrations in Egypt’s Tahir Square and the efforts of oppressed women to gain civil rights, Ms. Stamatiou depicts women in various stages and types of hijab, a veil which is most commonly worn by Muslim women as a symbol of modesty, privacy, and morality. “Stamatiou emphasizes that her women are not victims,” says curator Maureen Morrisette, “Instead, they are metaphors for the universal struggle to be seen and heard…When united by cloth and common action, as demonstrated in the signature painting, the women surge ahead like soldiers. Their supernaturally lit headscarves imbue them with determination and power.”
Women’s Voices Now Film Festival (WVN) has supplied short films to further illustrate this struggle for self-expression. WVN, based in California, is an organization that believes in the importance of adding new voices to the struggle for social, economic and political equality. The films presented in this exhibition focus on the challenges and solutions faced by women in the global struggle for gender equality.
About the Artist
Olga Stamatiou began painting in 1967, at the age of twenty-one. This relatively late start to her artistic career followed the discovery of painting as a vehicle for cathartic personal expression. At the age of eighteen, she went to live with relatives in Athens, Greece and it was there in the heady, intellectually charged, artistically-vibrant atmosphere of mid-1960’s that she was stirred to begin her formal artistic education, studying with the painter Ilias Dekoulakos. She remained in Greece until 1976, when she returned to the United States and embarked on further studies at Boston University’s School of Fine Arts, where she received her BFA and MFA degree in painting. She also completed a graduate program in Art Therapy at the Metropolitan College of Boston University. She lived in America for the next 20 years, exhibiting and working in the United States. In 1997, she returned once again to Greece with her husband where they lived for five years. During that time, she had exhibitions in Athens, Greece and Nice, France. They are currently residing in Beaufort, South Carolina. In 2004 she started a non-profit company called Seewall Child which builds and installs interactive art based displays free of charge in crisis centers for children. Funds are raised through the making and selling of a variety of products. Olga and her company has won a 2007 Society in Arts in Healthcare Blair Sadler Award. It was said to be one of the most innovative arts projects demonstrating compelling impact on the quality of the healthcare experience for patients, their families and caregivers.
Artist Statement about the Exhibition
“My inspiration began on the 8th of March 2011, when a demonstration, commemorating International Women’s Day, in Cairo’s Tahir Square turned ugly. Watching the women in the streets, defiant , against all odds and fearless in the face of a paternalistic society that heretofore had denied them even their voice, touched something deep inside of me and I began to paint what has become a body of work called “Let Our Voices Emerge”. But more importantly, I came to realize that these singular women were truly a metaphor for all women. The shrouded shadow bodies, the heads without features, helmet-like and mute, that I had begun to paint, soon gathered round and round and supported each other. Arms circled as in the Greek dances of my childhood, the whispered word became louder, until it could no longer be denied and the connection was made. There is power here, feminine power coming from the voices we have all heard from childhood, magnified by the experiences of suppression, rebellion, exile, torture, and arising at last, singly and in unison declaring: “It is enough. We will speak our wisdom and the world will be reborn with us, like a phoenix.” As a painter, I have never been more aware of the predominant tension between light and dark, and between the ebb and flow of life force present in us all. I have always loved the process of painting, of letting layers appear and express themselves, of digging and digging to find elements that beg to be seen. But now, more than ever, it is my joy to work through the tension and get to the light, on the other side of darkness and silence. For the first time, the oil flows onto the linen from a place deep inside of me that is not solely mine, I do not own it, I merely translate it. I want to share it and let the universal dance of the feminine spirit be seen as well as heard.”