Tag Archives: art aid

Painting of the Week: A Journey through Ethiopia

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“Have you ever been to South Omo, Ethiopia? If you have, you’d remember. As the Lonely Planet guide book says: ‘Testing, awe-inspiring & heartbreaking – a journey you’ll never forget. You don’t explore Ethiopia for a relaxing getaway, you venture here to be moved. And moved you shall be.’

“Perhaps nowhere in Ethiopia is this more true than the tribal region of South Omo, the region that inspired this painting. It’s here that many tribes still live in the same way they have lived for centuries. Change has come slowly to this region — if at all.

“What fascinated me — I mean, really took hold and gripped me — was this lack of modernization, the adhering to a traditional nomadic way of life. I’ m not glamorizing, glorifying or judging this way of life; I’m simply an observer. There is much that is good, and much that is very challenging for me.

“Women of the region’s Merci tribe cut their lower lips, right where the lip meets the skin beneath, and insert a lip plate, the size of which indicates wealth. This is done just before marriage, around age 15. This stirs within me questions of humanity. It is said the practice originally started as a way to avoid the slave trade, as slave traders found these lip plates so distasteful. Again, my ideas of how things should be are challenged.

“Female genital mutilation is also still commonly practiced in this region, and interviews with local women indicate support for continuation of this practice. It’s here that I can no longer set aside my personal feelings in favor of impartial observation. I find the brainwashing of young girls into believing mutilating their genitals is a honor — in fact, a good thing — just plain deplorable, and again I am stirred inside.

“To look at this painting, you do not see this controversy; you only see my adoration for a way of life that still, for at least a short time longer, remains untouched by the modern world. No iPhones, no Internet, no social media, just a simpler way of life, all bringing about more questions than answers.

“Why have I chosen to honor this way of life, as opposed to using my art to bring attention to such horrifying acts as female genital mutilation? Because the nature of my art is not, nor ever will be, about political statements or controversy. My art is about the good in life, the joy, the positive things worth honoring. It is in my personal life and my writings that I explore the bigger questions, and by founding Art Aid International, I gave myself a platform for giving back.

“My painting remains an escape for me, an outlet of joy. It is my intent that through seeing what is fascinating about Africa— as in this painting: a nomadic way of life, yet untouched by modernization — you might be inclined to learn more, to ask the serious questions, and come to your own conclusions about things. To begin your own journey into humanity, or further a journey you are already on. Either way, I believe the tribes of South Omo, Ethiopia, if explored, will bring about a stirring in you, as happened to me. It is virtually impossible not to be moved, and you will likely find more questions than answers. And that just may inspire a personal revolution.”

“A Journey Through Ethiopia”

Size: 24 x 24
Medium: Mixed media
Price: SOLD

To purchase prints of Stephanie’s Ethiopia collection, click here.

Meet the SSA Team: Stephanie Schlatter

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In a series of blog posts, we’ve been introducing the team behind Stephanie Schlatter Art: the folks out on the street promoting my artwork, keeping the website and social media humming along, etc., while I’m in the studio focused on creating! Today we wrap up with …

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Photo by Todd L. Church

Stephanie Schlatter: the SSA ship captain, a closet marketer and businesswoman, sometimes photographer and writer, but above all, a creator and painter.

I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, and I’m happy to still call this great city my home. It is my hunger for adventure, for travel, that started this whole ball rolling. Yes, it was because I traveled that I became an artist. My love of recording the magical places I visited sent me back to college at 27 with a desire to learn photography. I soon discovered that my passion for photography was only for travel photography, but that even that left me feeling limited. At the same time, I had a wise photography teacher who encouraged his students to take an art class. Nothing, he said, would teach us more about composition and seeing. Having taken every art class I could in high school, I was more than happy to oblige. From that first college art classroom, my life changed and I never looked back.

I am happiest when I have long stretches of time in the studio to create. It is the joy of creating something where before there was nothing that fuels the fire in my belly and keeps me returning to the canvas to see what else can be done. A curiosity for life is perhaps the biggest driving force in my work. I love to paint figuratively, landscapes and abstract; the subject simply has to interest me, but it’s not so much the subject as the process. How can I continue to take my work to the next level of my own satisfaction, to push my limits as a painter and enter a piece from a new direction? Then, when a piece is complete, I send it out into the world, where it takes on a new life: that of the viewers’ interaction with it. I am not concerned with how a piece is perceived or interpreted as much as its ability to bring joy to the viewer, evoking emotion and, ultimately, smiles.

That is just one part of what I do. I have recently learned I’m a better painter when I honor my other interests as well. I do love the art of business, and I’m afraid I have been known to exhaust my team with my marketing ideas. It’s the way people work, perceive things and respond that fascinates me from a marketing and business perspective. I like looking at the big picture and steering the ship of my small business. My desire is for my SSA team to feel empowered to be creative themselves and honor their own skills and abilities — that excites me. I work with many great people and feel humbled and honored to know them.

At the root of it all is a desire to give back — not only to my team, but to my roots where it all began: travel. The people and places I visit in my travels have had, and continue to have, a lasting effect on me. I have long loved a quote by St. Augustine: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Reading the “book” of travel and people and places of the world expanded my views, broadened my horizons, left me with beliefs and interests I would not have had were it not for my experiences globally. I feel a desire to give back for all I have gotten from the places I have been, so eight years ago I launched a division of my art called Art Aid International, a project that brings art to children in Ethiopia while also using art to raise money and awareness for education. That completes the circle for me: make, create, art, business, marketing, giving, philanthropy repeat. It’s not always simple, but it’s always worth it!