Painting | Greensboro
Mariam Stephan’s work takes viewers on a journey through dark landscapes of ruin, upheaval, and displacement. Poignant, especially in a contemporary context that feeds us repeated images of societies torn apart by war and violence, she draws inspiration from artists such as Francisco Goya and Käthe Kollwitz, whom she credits with the ability to “record pervasive states of the human condition with … directness and empathy….” In a similar way, Stephan teaches us to look into the darknesses that we normally avoid in order to see the points of light and color and hope that reside in their depths.
Her own story also informs her painting, as both her parents emigrated from countries undergoing turbulent change, her mother from Afghanistan, her father from Communist East Germany. As she says, “Firsthand experiences of loss, as well as the residual effects passed down through family and community, interest me. How do we synthesize the felt, seen, or told narratives that continue as reminders and echoes of suffering and sacrifices?” Her monumental paintings confront us with our worst histories, but also suggest that people have made the journey through these landscapes before, and will again.
Mariam Stephan is a 2018-2019 N.C. Arts Council Artist Fellowship recipient. Based in Greensboro, she has exhibited widely, including solo shows at the Henry Zarrow Arts Center in Tulsa, OK, the Gezira Art Center in Cairo, Egypt, and the Painting Center in New York. Among other honors, she won a Fulbright Scholars Award in 2010-11, which took her to the Middle East. She is an Associate Professor in the Art Department at UNC- Greensboro, where she has taught since 2004.