de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited—A Photodocumentary by Rick Nahmias

January 13 - March 18, 2012


We often see depictions of conventional religious practices, yet we rarely encounter the alternative forms of spiritual expression adopted by marginalized communities. Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited aims to give a voice to those who participate in the diverse religious landscape of California, but who have been pushed to the edges of society because of conditions, actions, or circumstances.

In this photographic series, artist Rick Nahmias ventures into eleven communities who are turning to eight different faith traditions to find refuge, family, and identity. Looking to Eastern, Western, and indigenous traditions from around the state, Nahmias depicts groups who represent the remarkable ethnic, racial, religious, and sexual diversity in California. Whether they are Zen Buddhists practicing within the walls of San Quentin State Prison, members of a Jewish congregation of recovering addicts, or participants in the world's only transgender gospel choir, each group stands at a religious and cultural intersection that few others have experienced.

Working over a three year period, Nahmias spent multiple days with each group photographing and interviewing participants with a specific focus on individual congregants, their faith leaders, their rituals and ceremonies. 

Photography, text, and audio by Rick Nahmias. Nahmias discusses the project in the video interview below.


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Image, left: Rick Nahmias,Stations of the Cross, Immaculate Heart Community. The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart Community have a unique method of "walking the stations," originally created as a means of Christian devotion consisting of meditation on Christ through the fourteen steps of his final suffering. Instead of just focusing on the story of Christ, they relate each station, such as "Jesus is condemned to death" or "Jesus is stripped of his garments" to a specific social or political injustice, which is currently happening around the world, be it a march to war, corporate greed, or domestic abuse. The walk is done as a group with community members participating in responsive readings, and in some cases song, as a means of saluting the humanity, dignity, and equality in each other as well as in victims of social injustice.
Image, right: Rick Nahmias, Indian Boys, Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. Ezeqiel (front) and his cousin Jose, two of the youngest members of the tribe, take a moment between dances at The Acorn. Having been restored as one of President Clinton's final acts while in office, the tribe now encompasses a hugely diverse population from the well-educated to the very poor, from the octogenarians to infants, presenting a unique opportunity for both elders and the next governing generation of the tribe to take part in ceremony and worship simultaneously.
Descriptive text for images provided by Rick Nahmias.


Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited

Visit the official exhibition website.