In 2005, Burma was on the cusp on Genocide. The country was just opening up to tourism, but it took a lot of attention to travel in a way that did not directly support the oppressive government. We visited the ancient temples sprawled across the plains in Bagan and were left in awe of the structures. This series of portraits are of women found on the streets, in between temples and tucked inside shrine rooms. They are shy in an environment steeped in fear.
The Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII stands supported by tree roots that have cascaded down the stone structures and embedded themselves so intricately with the temple, it would prove very difficult to remove them without destroying the ancient buildings. In a beautiful marriage of nature and architecture, the forms were born of many years of the temple sitting forgotten in the tropical forest. Throughout the complex, buildings are adorned with extensive friezes of the battle between the Khmer & Cham centuries ago. In more recent history, it was a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge until they were ousted by the Vietnamese after the American War there. Evidence of bullet holes are pockmarks scattered across the surfaces as residual marks from this tumultuous era. This series was painted from photographs I took there in 1999. At that time, I was exploring the long term impacts of the American presence through the region. My father was a captain in Intelligence during the American war in Vietnam. His task was to interpret aerial photographs to decide where to drop bombs. He spent time in Cambodia during the first stirrings of genocide that flourished after the Americans left the region. The series of landscapes are infused with a red haze that fills the atmosphere, painted in this way to reflect this recent history, while the trees and architecture persist silently into another new age. The grounds-dwellers around the temples of Angkor Wat are without limbs more often than not as the community continues to be confronted by extensive UXO and slowly come to points of healing. The paintings of shrines found throughout the stone halls are a testament to the continued use of the temples as sacred spaces.