Belief Made Tangible: Devotion, Transformation and Protection
9/16/08 to 12/6/08
Northern Illinois University
South Galleries, NIU Art Museum
This exhibition was held in conjunction with the International Burma Studies Conference October 3-5, 2008. It comprised pieces for the NIU Burma Art Collection and explored the sacred process and products issuing from the imagination materially transformed and solidified into works of Buddhist devotion. The range of items on display extended from sublime and refined works created by court artist under royal commission; through artisan-crafted meritorious temple donations and ceremonial requisites commissioned by both wealthy and middle-class devotees; to the humblest artifacts used for protection in daily life by indigenous popular cults at the fringe of austere Theravada Buddhism.
Concepts of belief, otherwise invisible, are made tangible, recognizable and usable to the practitioners by way of transformation and protection. Devotion may be seen in the Footprint of the Buddharepresenting his presence in a microcosm of the universe at tha meeting point between devas (celestial beings), nagas, (beings from the underworld) and humans. Throughout the gallery, Transformationmay be seen with the carved ivories given as a royal tribute and transformed into sacred objects or in the Jataka story depicting the Buddha's own transformation in either tapestries or carvings. Protectionin daily life is seen through astrology, tattoos, protective guardian figures and Nat spirits from Burmese Buddhist cosmology.