Ashland University Coburn Gallery Hosts Photography Exhibition

9/13/11 ASHLAND, OH -- The Coburn Art Gallery at Ashland University will host a traveling exhibition of 30 photographs by photographer Robert Gerhardt as part of the College of Arts and Sciences Symposium "Against Global Indifference: Awakening to Action."

The exhibition, titled "Life on the Border: The Karen People of Burma," will open with a reception set for Thursday, Sept. 22, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and will run through Oct. 14. Admission is free and open to the public.

As part of the exhibition, a visiting artist lecture featuring Gerhardt will be held on Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. in Ronk Lecture Hall of the Schar College of Education.

The exhibition photographs are silver gelatin prints made on 16" x 20" fiber-based paper, with an actual image size of 12" x 18."

Since 1948, the Karen, whose state lies just within Burma across the Moei River from Mae Sot, have been fighting a civil war against the Burmese military junta for independence for their areas. But this continuous warfare has come at a very high price for the Karen People: an uncountable number of dead and wounded, the destruction of countless Karen villages as the Burmese junta tries to put down the Karen, and hundreds of thousands of Karen refugees stream across the Moei River into Thailand to escape the fighting.

When they arrive in Thailand, the refugees have two choices: 1) they are either forced to live legally in the squalor of various overcrowded United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps, or 2) they can risk staying illegally, with a constant battle both to hide from the Thai authorities who will deport them if caught, and, at the same time, avoid the numerous unscrupulous employers who attempt to exploit them because of their status as unregistered aliens.

From mid-February to mid-March of 2006, Gerhardt photographed in and around the town of Mae Sot in order to document the lives of the Karen people who are living in Thailand.  He originally traveled to the Mae Sot area in order to photograph the Mae Tao Clinic, which is run by Dr. Cynthia Maung, a Burmese refugee and Nobel Prize Nominee, who runs the clinic in order to care for her fellow countrymen who have fled Burma. But upon his arrival, he expanded his project to photograph not only the clinic operations, but also the lives of the Karen in and around Mae Sot.

In addition to the grant from the Ashland University "Against Global Indifferences: Awakening to Action Symposium," the exhibition is supported by the Ashland University Multicultural Student Services Office and the University Art Department.

The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 12 noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information about the exhibition or the visiting artist lecture, call 419.289.5652 or visit us on Facebook.

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