Olga Stamatiou was born in New York City on March 2nd, 1946. She 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. 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.
“One day, a long time ago, I retreated into my room and began to paint. It was an intuitive act, based on the need to express emotions and thoughts, and as in most actions followed by intuition, it was the best choice of my life and has become my closest companion.
Color is my passion and my main vehicle of artistic expression. I feel color so intensely that it intoxicates me. I remember when I first saw a Van Gogh painting, I salivated. The colors were powerfully rich and luscious. I was exhilarated. What an experience! Then later, after looking at a Rothko, I was transported to a different place, a quiet meditative state of beautiful inner- light experience.
Color is profoundly subliminally effective. It can elevate you to many different states and like music, it can calm you, excite you, inspire you, take away your pain, make you feel good, lift your spirits and bring you to another frame of mind. It’s vibratory force can influence human behavior and is incredibly healing when used effectively.
Imagine a world without color. Color should not be feared but embraced, for it can reveal many amazing things to human psyche.“
The new series Let Our Voices Emerge :
“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. “
Exhibit at City Gallery, Charleston SC
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.
Dramatic clashes in Tahrir Square between Egyptian citizens and government-backed forces led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Westerners saw images of Egyptian women in headscarves, called hijab, and full body coverings known as burkas, protesting alongside Egyptian men for greater political freedom. These actions raised hope worldwide that Egyptian people would gain their political demands and that the increased public visibility for women could lead to greater parity between the sexes.
The following month the women returned to Tahrir Square to commemorate International Women’s Day and to rally for equal rights along with a stop to sexual harassment prevalent on the streets of Cairo. They were attacked by Egyptian men who disrupted the gathering, thwarting any expectation of imminent reform.
Inspired by the efforts of the oppressed women, Olga Stamatiou began to paint the series, Let Our Voices Emerge. Using simplified shapes and a somber palette of dark grays representing despair, and eerily glowing jewel tones signifying hope, the veiled women from Cairo are symbolically elevated. For Stamatiou they now represent women of all cultures who struggle for basic freedom and the right to be heard.
The hijab and burka worn by Muslim women to comply with dictates for modesty have become symbols that evoke tension between religion, individuality, sexuality, and choice. Stamatiou’s veiled women, weighed down by fabric, are hidden and silent; they are set apart from our world, particularly removed from western culture. Stamatiou emphasizes that her women are not victims. Instead, they represent the universal struggle to be seen and heard. She accomplishes this aim by frequently depicting faceless forms as part of a group. While the veil may function as a barrier between the women and the viewer, it serves as a unifying element among the women as they merge into one body. When united by fabric and common action, as demonstrated in the signature painting titled No. 34, the women surge ahead like foot soldiers. Their supernaturally lit headscarves imbue them with determination and power.
Stamatiou’s seated figures, on the other hand, are immobilized by fabric. Their posture echoes Renaissance-era paintings of the Virgin Mary, yet Mary’s traditional cloak has turned into a shroud that covers the face completely and swallows the figure. It functions to both conceal and reveal the body beneath, while focusing attention on the fabric as an expressive device in itself. In later paintings, the fabric becomes increasingly transparent, until in one instance, the women glow from within exposing their gaunt, unclothed bodies that have been deprived of sustenance.
Although created as the first canvas in the series, the culmination of Let Our Voices Emerge may be found in No. 1, the painting that depicts rigid women, akin to caryatides (a sculpted figure of a woman used as a column in ancient Greek architecture) floating upward, released from the constraints of fabric and oppression, moving from darkness to light.
Ed and Eileen F.
I love synchronicity! How wonderful your art is here during our One County One Country program.
It has added so much. Thank you. May your creative juices continue to flow freely!
Brenda B. F.
Olga I am in awe of your work. Over the years, I have seen the many themes come into wonderful sequences of art from your incredible creative mind and talent.
Stunning, powerful, thank you.
Rick & Mary W.
Absolute intriguing art, stories, stories, stories in every painting.
This is an incredible collection that is so powerful.
The Story, the heat, the energy, the future. Thank you, I was both humbled and inspired by your work.
La Shainta A.
Olga, thank you for sharing your amazing vision with us all!
Dawn P. & Dave B.
A gift to the world you are!
Wonderful, inspiring, thank you.
Thank you Olga, for bringing to awareness the plight of women through this amazing exhibition of work from your heart.
Wonderful exhibit- enigmatic, surreal, moving, powerful. Thank you.
Chilling. Bounding. Thanks Olga.
These are haunting and beautiful! Thank you.
Very moving, both the art and words.
It makes my heart ache.
Rich in color, loud in meaning, the most beautiful collection I have ever seen. Looking at them I can hear the whispers as loud as thunder, its moving to the point of goosebumps, can’t decide which is my favorite.
PS: Your message is moving and inspiring. I want to rip off my bondage and stand with all of these women. Let our voices sing!
Olga I have never met you, but have heard of your work- you speak to the soul of all women “you see” us throughout the ages to ages
Thank you for your insight and love of freedom.
J. Yevonne G.
I have just seen your exhibit and I am so thrilled, moved, exhilarated, even scared...so many emotions you bring forth.
I simply had to thank you personally,
Kim Ann H.
Let Our Voices Emerge