Q&A: Artist Matt Braun talks latest exhibition, “For Burma, With Love,” supporting Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement


Courtesy of Matt Braun

One of the paintings in artist Matt Braun’s latest exhibition entitled “For Burma, With Love.”

Laya Neelakandan, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Matt Braun is an Evanston-based artist and educator who has taught art to children both in Evanston and across Asia. Braun’s latest exhibition, “For Burma, With Love,” was inspired by his experiences in Myanmar. 20 percent of all proceeds will go to Mutual Aid Myanmar to support the Civil Disobedience Movement. The exhibition is on display at 1100 Florence Gallery until May 21. The Daily sat down with Braun to talk about the exhibition. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The Daily: How did you come up with the idea for “For Burma, With Love?”

Braun: Actually, it just fell into place. I had done a painting based on an image I took in Myanmar in 2017 and was looking to sell that one painting to donate to Mutual Aid Myanmar. I had this other work that I’ve done over the past few years that’s also based on that region of Asia. There happened to be room this month in the gallery, so we put all the work together. 

I use art as a way to process things. I have really good friends who live in Myanmar and I’ve experienced the culture, so it’s really heartbreaking what’s happening there. So I started the painting with the idea that I would donate to an organization.

The Daily: What was the artistic process behind your painting decisions?

Braun: Each painting has a different story. The first image is more of a darker image with darker colors. I started looking through images from my travels and looking at images that stood out to me. There was one solemn image of a monk just sitting in reflection, and I thought that was very reflective of what’s happening there right now. Behind the monk, there was a Burmese toy that children play with, and that symbolizes innocence and an easier time in that country, especially because they’ve dealt with so much civil unrest. 

From that painting, I did a smaller one that is more of a hopeful image. It still has a little bit of that reflective nature, but it’s more of a happy image. One of the paintings I did when I was in Nepal — I came back before the earthquake, so one painting is from 2015 reflecting on what happened in Nepal, and it’s called “Rebuild,” which is trying to inspire hope. The big painting of Shiva was part of a series I did where I was exploring different things from traveling throughout Nepal and my experiences of being brought into that culture. All of the little portraits are students that I’ve taught in the past in Asia.

The Daily: What do you hope people get out of the paintings when they see them?

Braun: With the title, it’s just to bring awareness to what’s going on in Myanmar. There’s so much negativity that’s happening in the world right now, especially with the pandemic, but I think it’s also good for people to know what’s going on and to be conscious of that. That’s the intention of this show: to bring awareness to what’s happening in Burma right now. 

The Daily: What does this exhibition mean to you?

Braun: I have a personal connection with the country; I have murals that I’ve painted there, I’ve met many great friends there, but above all, I’ve always looked at art as a way for me to do social activism. It’s a way for me to express myself, but also to bring awareness to causes I feel are important, and that’s something I’ve always done in my practice. 

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Twitter: @laya_neel

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