Me, We, Women

Olé Viravong Scovill Bio

Olé Viravong Scovill, was born on February 17, 1977 in Laos. She started painting and drawing since a young age and attended a Chinese Elementary School from first grade to sixth grade, then moved to Vientiane Lao High School. Olé left Laos to study at the Mahasarakham University in Thailand in 1995. She graduated with a BA in Visual Art in 2000. At the end of 2004 she moved to the US and has been painting ever since, showing her art in California and across the country since 2005. Her themes usually involve dark and colorful depictions of the female form and explore the broad spectrum of the female experience. She wishes for “women to be able to share their minds — even the dark parts”. For current interest, Olé says:”I am still working in the same variety of media and still fairly focused on womanhood and feminism, but I think I’m becoming more political in an abstract, hidden way. I don’t really limit my art to targeting different themes or media – it just comes as I feel it.” Olé’s work has been widely exhibited in Lao and U.S in both group and solo exhibitions, and most recently at the i: Cat gallery, Lao: solo show Out of My Mind (2017); international group exhibition Turning Point II (2016); solo photography exhibition I Am Thinking (2016).

Art in Soul, 2017, Photo Peformant

“The woman in the image is my cousin when she was 8 months pregnant with her second child. I was lucky to invite her as a model because I wanted to represent motherhood, showing a woman with many children, so many responsibilities for one woman. Some women already have children and they’re pregnant with the next one. They love their children however hard it is being a mother, and sometimes it causes them to have to give up the other things they want to do. I wanted to show the responsibility of motherhood as a weight on their shoulders, on their hands.”

“I did this work as a continuation of my theme on motherhood as I’ve continued to think about being a mother myself. I think it is an enormous challenge and a huge responsibility to be a mother that we all just accept as it is. For me it may be a particularly strange experience because when I was younger I never thought about being a mother and it is an experience that I really don’t have words to describe, so I use art.”

When I was Pregnant #1, 2009, 27.9×35.6cm, Acrylic on paper

“The series When I was Pregnant is inspired from my own experience as a mother. Maybe my own pregnancy was a little traumatic. Being a mother and an artist is a challenge as motherhood takes a lot of time out of the day. You have to take care of your child when you want to spend your time being an artist. This challenge pushes me to do more art in my own way which is to turn my experience into my art. As an artist, I think about my work all the time, turning that experience into my works. I can’t do either one part-time, you have to be a full-time mother and a full-time artist.”

When I was Pregnant #2, 2016, 27.9×35.6cm, Acrylic on paper

Curator: One of the most noticeable elements in the series are decorative patterns, such as ocean waves, imaginary fishes, and aquatic animals. And the woman figure is always depicted as beautiful and spiritual elf, or fairy. What is the idea behind those rich visions and transformation of the pregnant woman?

Olé: The “When I was pregnant” series was from my own experience, especially from having a difficult pregnancy, including being under bed-rest for a long time. It was uncomfortable, painful, depressing, and I was worried about my child being healthy. I thought about being in the ocean, in the water, with animals I’d never seen to make myself feel better in the difficult time of the pregnancy. The figure in the paintings is me as I dreamed of being in a better place to make myself feel better.

Say Something, 2020, 18 x 24cm, Ink on paper

“This work is not about a pregnant woman, but is still about womanhood. It shows a woman who has to hold the roles and experiences of a woman, loving, caring, being lonely, and finding time to be herself. The woman is thinking of all the elements of her life and her natural drive is to hold and protect all these parts of herself. Despite all that she is persevering.”

Expecting #3, 204, 35x46cm, Acrylic & Ink on paper

Curator: I am very impressed by your unique style of art, especially the language of brushworks. How did you cultivate the style and your expression?

Olé: I find myself wanting to create clean, detailed works whether in paint or ink. This may be odd, but I feel that in order to create good art I have to suffer in the production, so I challenge myself and push myself to put more and more fine detail, more clean lines, even colors, etc. From this obsession and through practice my style has evolved to what it has become now.

When I Feel You, 2016, 9.8×11.2cm, Ink on paper

Curator: As you have such a rich experience, lived and was educated in many countries, how those multiple culture backgrounds influence your art practice and your perspective of feminist art?

Olé: I lived in these different countries and saw the contrast of the condition of women in these worlds. In Laos, women are told to not think or express themselves more than what their culture has set out for them as women – yet I had a million things inside I wanted to express. I found other cultures where you are encouraged to say what you’re feeling and experiencing. In all these cultures, women are still denied the fullness of their rights, and women as artists are always under this pressure to push to explore and express and empower and uplift women. While the experience of women is universal, I don’t think it is the same across all cultures. At the same time, the experience in my home country taught me to fight against the boundaries that are set for women, and this same principle applies to all cultures.

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