Skip to content
Home » News and Events » TRAUMA and THERAPY


Cypriot Antiquity and Contemporary Art
At the Pafos Archaeological Museum

  • All

Offering to the Unknown God, 2014. Metal structure, glass, ceramic vessels

  • All

Opening: Friday 10 October 2014 at 19.30
The exhibition will be inaugurated by the President of the House of Representatives Mr Yiannakis Omirou.
Duration of the exhibition: 11 October 2014 – 28 February 2015

Universal votive objects

The Columbian artist Susan Vargas Stephani, who has lived in Cyprus for years, in Pafos in particular, created a series of votive dedications (eleven anthropomorphic clay vessels), inspired by the religious tradition of the Catholic people of Latin America but also from equivalent religious traditions of Cyprus and Greece. The artist had started working with the act of votive dedications as the basic thematic core of her work ever since 1991 with the installation “Lernaean Hydra” in the Tombs of the Kings in Pafos. She used the thematic of the vow again in 1994 at the Panhellenic Art Symposium “Gaia Aphrodite” at Famagusta Gate, Nicosia, and in 2012 at “Palia Ilektriki” Cultural Centre in Pafos for the exhibition “Without” which was organized by Pafos 2017 – European Cultural Capital, and had to do with immigrants. What I noticed with admiration in the work of Vargas is the completely personal and deeply evocative character of her work. Being herself a collector of wax votive objects of Cyprus, the kind that one meets only in churches in the countryside and mainly in monasteries, she has grasped in depth the relation between the plastic potential of the material (wax, clay) and the effort to express the human sentiment of request, despair, and supplication. Vargas’ anthropomorphic vessels/pots (which contain offerings) are not however characterized by the known frontality and stylistic stiffness of Cypriot wax votive objects which, according to the artist, “exhibit a pagan exoticism.” Cypriot votive dedications bear memories from the Byzantium and pre-historic antiquity, and it is my opinion that their distinct stylistics (their static element and lightly carved eastern characteristics) differ greatly from the corresponding stylistics and thematology of ancient and paleochristian keepsakes showing monstrous figures which offered protection from the “evil eye.” [1]

Vargas’ clay vessels have their own character which is indeed so authentic so as to give an impression that their figure and their silent yet vociferous supplication (which is stressed by the small round gap of the open mouth) come from the ancient and pre-historic years, combining memories and dedicational practices of the cultures of Pre-Columbian America but also of countries in the Mediterranean. Some of the vessels have symbolic marks from the passing of time, while most of them, given in different and multiple “body types,” bear at their rear side engravings or reliefs depicting human torsos or body parts. Vargas’ votive objects suggest an extremely impressive retort to the treatment of wounds or illness suggested by the healing vessels: the ceramic vessels of the Hellenistic Era capture, as we have already concluded, an empirical/Aristotelian perception of illness and the expectation for cure, while the animistic votive objects of the Columbian artist who honours Pafos with her work allude to an intensely expressionist manifestation of human existence under ordeal, at the moment that it is in search of salvation through the tangent roads of religious faith and magic.

Dr. Niki Loizidou
Professor of Art History and the exhibition’s curator

Wax offerings from the artist’s collection

  • All

The Scarecrows. Exhibited in Samos, Greece in 1999.

  • All