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In Focus: Apsara Warrior

In Focus: Apsara Warrior

In Focus: Apsara Warrior

At the foot of the staircase leading up to the modern and contemporary galleries in UMMA's new Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing stands one of the most arresting works of art in the Museum's collections: an over life-sized female divinity figure fabricated with detonated AK47s. Brought to life by contemporary Cambodian artist Ouk Chim Vichet (born 1981 in Phnom Penh), this apsara warrior is posed atop a pile of discarded guns and holds a broken rifle in her hands.

The piece originated out of the Peace Arts Project Cambodia, which was funded in part by the European Union Assistance on Curbing Small Arms and Light Weapons in Cambodia and designed to promote non-violence and young Cambodian artists. In 2003, Ouk was one of 23 sculpture students from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh selected to create work from decommissioned weapons-mines and small arms-for the project. He chose the traditional and popular apsara figure- encountered in ancient temple carvings throughout Cambodia as a graceful, celestial dancer who performed to honor the gods and ancestors-for her star power and reputation for gentleness and peace.

"This work of art shows that apsara, in addition to her many images in many temples, is also a symbol of women of the world who are brave and struggle hard to rid the world of war and all fearful things which threaten human life," said the artist.

According to the Southeast Asia Globe, Ouk is one of ten artists shaping Cambodian art today. UMMA's apsara was generously donated to the Museum in 2007 by Guy and Nora Barron, southeastern Michigan collectors, who met the artist and bought the piece on a trip to Cambodia.

Stephanie Rieke Miller
External Relations Manager and Senior Writer