Smarn (Scar) by Chantou Oeur


Smarn (Scar)

Have you been watching the powerful documentary on the Viet Nam war by Ken Burns?

I always admire his work, yet this latest film has truly been riveting. Perhaps it is because as a child I remember so clearly the discord in our home between my father (who received a battle field commission from Gen. Patton in WWII) and my oldest sister (who thought opening up a draft dodging counseling service in our garage was a great idea). The generational tension left some wounds in our family… but nothing like it did for those who survived the actual military conflicts in Viet Nam and Cambodia.

I find myself thinking a lot about one of the artists who graced us with his presence several years ago. Chantou Oeur was one of the artists our family hosted in our home during an Andres Institute of Art annual sculpture symposia. One night he opened up a bit and shared some of his experiences with our family. To say we were all deeply touched and inspired would be an understatement.

Here is a bit of his story, as told to  reporter Heidi Masek from the Hippo Press (Sept. 28, 2006)

Oeur leaves you with the impression that he is warm, lighthearted, joyful and ready to share what he knows about sculpting. But what marks Oeur’s creativity are the atrocities committed in Cambodia which he fled in 1978 when the Khmer Rouge took control.

Oeur was orphaned as a baby, raised by his sister, and then lived at Buddhist temples until he was 15. He was a freedom fighter and a refugee. And Oeur was an artist, “since before I was born.” Chantou also recites poetry, inspired by Cambodian struggles. Oeur gives demonstrations at the Smithsonian Institute during Asian Pacific Heritage month.

‘‘I will sacrifice anything to let the world experience the recent Cambodian tragedy through my art work,” he writes in his artist statement for AIA.. Oeur uses his artwork and poetry to let people know what’s going on his home country, where Pol Pot’s regime killed 2 million of Cambodia’s 7 million people in the 1970s.

His work at Andres will be an extension of his attempts to “Let the powerful world know what’s going on in the powerless world.”

Recently,  AIA was contacted by a professor of Asian art in southern California who was writing a college textbook on Asian art. He wanted a photograph of the sculpture Chantou created for Andres to place perhaps on the cover of his book…he felt it spoke so powerfully of the ravages of war in Chantou’s  homeland.

Chantou’s sculpture in the AIA sculpture park is called “Smarm” which translates in English to “Scar.” It is a powerful piece on its own…but has gained even more meaning for my now, as I watch the documentary by Ken Burns.

To see Chantou’s sculpture, vist AIA and locate  sculpture #46.

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

September 28, 2006

Chanthou Oeur
Oeur leaves you with the impression that he is warm, lighthearted, joyful and ready to share what he knows about sculpting. But what marks Oeur’s creativity are the atrocities committed in Cambodia which he fled in 1978 when the Khmer Rouge took control. Now a Maryland resident, he keeps his most treasured artwork at his home, including a sculpture of rain-washed graves of Cambodian victims.

Oeur was orphaned as a baby, raised by his sister, and then lived at Buddhist temples until he was 15. He was a freedom fighter and a refugee. And Oeur was an artist, “since before I was born.” Chantau also recites poetry, inspired by Cambodian struggles. Oeur gives demonstrations at the Smithsonian Institute during Asian Pacific Heritage month.

‘‘I will sacrifice anything to let the world experience the recent Cambodian tragedy through my art work,” he writes in his artist statement. Oeur uses his artwork and poetry to let people know what’s going on his country, where Pol Pot’s regime killed 2 million of Cambodia’s 7 million people in the 1970s.

His work at Andres will be an extension of his attempts to “Let the powerful world know what’s going on in the powerless world.”