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Art exhibition chronicles lives of Karen people as they struggle to survive Thai-Burma border

August 15, 2012
Robert Gerhardt’s “Young Girl in the Market, Mae Sot, Thailand” (2006)

Robert Gerhardt’s “Young Girl in the Market, Mae Sot, Thailand”

Offered in conjunction with the NIU Art Museum’s upcoming Southeast Asian Exhibition Suite, “Karen: A People on the Border” chronicles the lives of the Karen people as they have struggled to survive on the Thai-Burma border since 1962 and cope with the repercussions of a 60-year civil war.

This exhibition featuring the documentary photography of Robert Gerhardt will run from Tuesday, Aug. 28, to Saturday, Nov. 17, with a public reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13.

Gerhardt received his B.A. in anthropology/sociology and art history from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., in 1999. In 2007, he earned his M.F.A. in photography from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in Boston.

He currently works as a digital photographer at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and has lived and worked in New York City since 1999.

Gerhardt photographed the Karen people within the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand, in 2006, documenting the challenges they face as they deal with continuous warfare, destruction, poverty and exploitation. Gerhardt attributes the success of this documentary series to the Karen people.

“The photographs in this body of work are the result of my being granted access to the lives of the Karen people by the Karen people. Without their trust in letting me into their world, this project would not have been possible.”

“Karen: A People on the Border” will be offered in conjunction with the Cambodia Studies Conference, planned from Thursday, Sept. 13, through Sunday, Sept. 16, at NIU, and the International Burma Studies Conference, scheduled from Friday, Oct. 5, through Sunday, Oct. 7, at NIU.

Located on the west-end first floor of Altgeld Hall, the galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours.

Exhibitions and lectures are free; donations are appreciated.

Pay parking is available in the visitor’s lot on Carroll Avenue and at metered spots in front of Altgeld Hall. Free parking is available Saturdays and during receptions and visiting artist lectures in the lot northeast of Gilbert and College Drives.

The exhibition is sponsored in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the Friends of the NIU Art Museum; and the Dean’s Circle of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, NIU Foundation.

Call (815) 753-1936 for more information.