Altered State: Painting Myanmar in a Time of Transition

Exhibition and lecture explore the artwork and changing society of Myanmar

Myanmar artwork
Nay Aung Shu, Crowded life, 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48″, courtesy of Thukhuma/Ian Holliday.

Opening on January 30 and continuing until March 26, the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery will present Altered State: Painting Myanmar in a Time of Transition, an exhibition of paintings by 36 contemporary artists from Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma.

Created following the transition period of 2011, when a military-backed civilian government replaced oppressive rule by military junta and the country once famous for its seclusion re-entered the world stage, the paintings illustrate current artistic practice in Myanmar and present a series of creative viewpoints on a rapidly changing society. Paintings included in Altered State: Painting Myanmar in a Time of Transition are from the collection of contemporary Myanmar paintings of Ian Holliday, vice president and pro-vice-chancellor (teaching and learning) at the University of Hong Kong.

“The exhibition is important because it highlights the work of a large group of contemporary artists from Myanmar (Burma), many of whom experienced censorship of their work in the past. Myanmar is a country that is gradually transitioning from a long postwar history of military rule to a more democratic form of government,” says Constantine Vaporis, founding director of the Asian Studies Program and professor of history. “Barack Obama was the first U.S. president to visit the country, and his efforts to promote the peaceful democratic transformation of the country were important to the U.S.’s strategic rebalance to Asia.”

On February 1 at 4 p.m., the Humanities Forum and Social Sciences Forum will present a lecture by Christina Fink, professor of the practice in international affairs at The George Washington University, who will speak on “Myanmar: Perspectives on a Society in Transition.”

Professor Fink is a cultural anthropologist who has combined teaching, research, and development work throughout her career. Her areas of expertise are Burma/Myanmar in particular and Southeast Asia more broadly, equitable development, gender and development, civil society in ethnically diverse states. She received her B.A. in international relations from Stanford University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in social/cultural anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley. She has taught at the Elliot School for International Affairs at George Washington University since 2011. She served as a visiting lecturer at the Pacific and Asian studies department at the University of Victoria in 1995, and, from 2001 to 2010, she was a lecturer and program associate at the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute in Thailand.

Myanmar artwork
Aung Khaing, Maung Photu Nat, 2014, Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48″, courtesy of Thukhuma/Ian Holliday.

Presentation of the exhibition at UMBC is supported in part by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Friends of the Library & Gallery, the Libby Kuhn Endowment, and individual contributions. Professor Fink’s lecture is sponsored by the Asian Studies Program, the Dresher Center for the Humanities, the Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery, the Global Studies Program, the Department of Visual Arts, and the Social Sciences Forum.

Exhibition hours will be 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Thursday until 8 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. Admission to both the exhibition and lecture is free. Complete information is available on the UMBC Arts & Culture calendar here (exhibition) and here (lecture).