Gallery Reception: Transcendents: Spirit Mediums in Burma & Thailand


The Fine Art Galleries at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center proudly presents internationally-renown photographer, Mariette Pathy Allen, for the first public exhibit of images from her newly released book, Transcendents: Spirit Mediums in Burma & Thailand. The exhibit is a continuation of the artist's history of documenting transgender lives and experiences around the world through photography. Also on display alongside this exhibit is a small exhibit of the artists older photographs, Transgender USA.

Through her artistic practice, Mariette Pathy Allen has been a pioneering force in gender consciousness, contributing to numerous cultural and academic publications about gender variance and lecturing throughout the globe. Her first book Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them was groundbreaking in its investigation of a misunderstood community. Her second book The Gender Frontier is a collection of photographs, interviews, and essays covering political activism, youth, and the range of people that identify as transgender in mainland USA. It won the 2004 Lambda Literary Award in the Transgender/Genderqueer category. Her 2014 book TransCuba documents a growing visibility and acceptance in a country whose government is transitioning into a more relaxed model of communism under Raúl Castro's presidency. Her new book, Transcendents studies the phenomenon of gender variance among the spirit cults of Burma and Thailand. This book combines a raw, personal, photographic standpoint with an anthropological and sexological perspective on the genderfluid spirit mediums in Thailand and Burma.

Artist Statement: Although most people in Burma and Thailand are Buddhists, there are areas in both countries where Spirit Mediums continue to perform the ancient, animist traditions and rituals that pre-date Buddhism.

Although there are differences in the traditions practiced by Spirit Mediums in Burma and Thailand, I have combined the images here, as my focus is on the visual mystery of Spirit Mediums when they are possessed, and when going about their daily lives. I am looking at them as human beings who have been part of their cultures for as long as Animism has existed.

In the past, most Spirit Mediums were women, but over time, more men have felt called as Spirit Mediums. Those that live as men, dress as women in colorful, flowing garments, wear make-up, headdresses , and ornate jewelry before, during, and after possession. They must adorn themselves as women for the Spirits. Others live as women fulltime. They would be identified as transgender in the west.

When Mediums are possessed by a particular Spirit, they fall into a trance, and dance for many hours, drinking, smoking, accepting money from the crowd of onlookers who may join in the dance. During festivals when not dancing, Mediums sit in their beautifully decorated tents with altars covered with offerings that may include fruit, flowers, cans of beer, soda, cash, small toys, and statues. People come into the tent to get advice from the Spirit that that Medium channels.

Works by the artist are included in permanent collections of major museums, including Corcoran Gallery of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York Public Library, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard University's Fogg Museum, Portland Art Museum, Duke University, Haverford College, Paris' Bibliotheque Nationale, and China's Museum of Photography (and others).

Join us for a special artist reception on November 16 from 6-8pm to meet the artist!

This is a sober social event at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. No alcohol will be served.









November 16, 2017 at 6:00pm - 8pm
The Fine Art Galleries at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center
522 W Maple St
Allentown, PA 18101
United States
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Will you come?