Northern Illinois University’s Center for Burma Studies is hosting an international symposium, November 16 titled, “Looking Through the Glass: Asian Reverse Glass Painting Traditions.” Experts from around the world will present on the history behind and importance of this art form that dates back to the Middle Ages. The symposium’s topics are divided up by location beginning with lectures on reverse glass painting in Burma/Myanmar, then China, followed by Indonesia and concluding with Cambodia.
- U Aung Lynn, Ambassador to the United States for Burma (Myanmar)
- Jerome Samuel, Ph.D., vice president of the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, INaLCO, Paris
- Yin Ker, Ph.D., Nanyang University, Singapore
- Shelly Xue, Ph.D., Shanghai Institute of Visual ArtCarpenter Foundation Fellow for Asia Glass at Corning Museum of Glass
- Rosalia Sciortino, Ph.D., Mahidol University, Bangkok
- Sopheap Somcheat, National Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Joel Montague, collector of Cambodian Reverse Glass Paintings.
Catherine Raymond, Ph.D., professor of Southeast Asian Art History, director of the Center for Burma Studies and curator of Burma Art Collection at NIU will give opening remarks and take part in two of the lectures. Raymond was instrumental in NIU’s inclusion as one of only ten universities in the United States with access to visit and do research inside Myanmar starting in 2013.
Carmin Berchiolly, a research assistant in the Center for Burma Studies has been to Myanmar every summer since 2014 on different research trips and collaborations with Raymond. Center for Burma graduate assistant Markie Striegel, joined them both on last year’s trip and along with Berchiolly coordinated the first reverse glass painting exhibition ever held in Burma. More than 800 people attended the opening, and 21 pieces from that exhibition have been added to NIU’s Burma Art Collection, which now has nearly 3,000 pieces including art objects and more than 13,000 bibliographic holdings including rare books, manuscripts and maps.
Berchiolly, who Raymond describes as “a very skilled and organized researcher” is presenting her finding in this unique international symposium as a full-time scholar.
The night before the symposium, Thursday, November 14, the art exhibition “Vanishing Art from Myanmar: The Buddhist Reverse Glass Painting Tradition” will open at 5 p.m. at the NIU Art Museum in Altgeld Hall. The exhibition is curated by Raymond in conjunction with the symposium. The exhibition will run from November 15 through February 15. It explores the complex Burmese Buddhist tradition as it is revealed through the work of some artists from the last village in Burma dedicated to the reverse glass painting technique and tradition known since the art form’s introduction to the region in the 18th century.
Under the leadership of Raymond and her predecessor, founding director of the Center for Burma Studies, Richard Cooler, NIU has hosted International Burma Studies Conferences since 1987 every two years. These conferences are instrumental in bringing Burmese scholars fro all around the world to the United States to share their research and findings. The next conference is scheduled for 2020 with a planned exhibition on The Art of Surviving: Journey of Burmese Karen Refugees of Illinois, supporting in part by the Henry Luce Foundation.