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It is early autumn in Danville; leaves and cool temperatures are beginning to fall about the gnat-infested walkways of Centre College. For many students at Centre, fall is a time to wholeheartedly jump back into college life. As students become involved in their academic and social communities, the world shrinks to the size of a small liberal arts college somewhere in Kentucky. The school that boasts learning tempered by a global perspective, however, offers an alternative to the claustrophobia that comes with confinement to a campus. The art exhibit, “Altered State: Painting Myanmar in a Time of Transition,” is a portal to the dynamic country of Myanmar. It is open in the Jones Visual Arts Center now through October 21.

From the light of a window that looks out upon a train yard in central Kentucky, students are invited to discover the vibrant shades of modern life in Myanmar.  Dr. Kyle Anderson, the director of the Center for Global Citizenship, brought the collection to Centre through his relationship with Dr. Ian Holiday, the collector and the Vice-President and Pro-Vice Chancellor of Teaching and Learning at the university of Hong Kong.

Visitors are introduced to the landscape of the South Asian country in vivid shades of blue, pink, orange, and purple. One image takes on the colors of the sunset, while another reflects the blue scale that is exhibited in a succession of mountains.

Many of the works in Holliday’s collection portray people. The various artists whose work has been featured have taken different approaches to capturing the character of the country’s residents; two paintings, placed side by side, depict women who wear the traditional Thanakha makeup. “The make-up is a widely available, natural sun-screen and skin cooling agent made from the crushed bark of the Thanakha and Wood Apple trees,” Anderson notes in his commentary.  The woman of “Zwe Mon” (“The Gaze”) is a vertical line that stands proudly before the viewer. Her confidence is underscored by a radiant golden orb that frames her head. Her counterpart, the subject of “Pyay Pho Aung” (“Girl with Thanakha”), leans whimsically towards the left of the frame, demurely avoiding eye contact with the viewer.

The subjects that hang about the walls of the Aegon Gallery wear a range of both traditional and modern clothing. They are surrounded by objects alternately religious and material. Buddhist pagodas are neighbor to a coffee-drinker who sits among the products of an industrialized society.

Through the exhibit, students glimpse into the nature of a country that has undergone tumultuous change in recent years. “Khin Saw Latt” (“Golden Peace”) offers a reminder that, despite the influences of over a century of British colonization, Buddhism has remained a major part of life in Myanmar. The sunset hues of purple and gold don’t seem to speak of the violence that has erupted in recent years between the government, citizens, and religious groups, but the diversity of images does offer a nuanced picture of a country whose reality is an alternate experience of democracy.

On a campus where a deadline needs to be met every night, it is all too easy to limit one’s perspective to the immediate, the here and now. Thankfully, our faculty continually push us to see a broader a world, one that extends outside of Centre College. Take a walk down to the gallery and see for yourself what discoveries the collection has in store!