From Cambodian Muslims to Buddhist San Quentin inmates, a photography exhibit now on display at the de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University explores the diverse spiritual practices of people of various ethnic, cultural, religious, and gender orientations in California.
The exhibit, titled Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited—A Photodocumentary by Rick Nahmias, launched Jan. 13, and aims to give voice to those in marginalized communities.
The artist worked with 11 communities:
· Beit T’Shuvuh, the nation’s only halfway house aiding addicts self-identified as Jewish;
· Buddhadharma Sangha at San Quentin Prison, a group of Zen Buddhist practitioners composed of men incarcerated in California’s oldest prison;
· Cham Muslims, refugees from Cambodia, who are a cultural minority due to their language and Muslim faith;
· Deaf Members of the University City Branch of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, a branch of the Mormon Church that caters to the deaf and blind;
· Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Coastal Miwok and Southern Pomo Native Americans, who have begun reclaiming ancient rituals, dance, and language;
· Immaculate Heart Community, a group primarily composed of former Catholic nuns, who pursue a doctrine based on social justice, strong feminist tenets, and advocacy for the marginalized;
· People with HIV/AIDS at Kashi Ashram, a spiritual retreat that uses a combination of Hindu sacred practices and traditions to reach its members, many of whom are affected by HIV/AIDS;
· Rurally Isolated Pentecostals and Baptists, a mostly African-American Christian community, who worship in small churches in unincorporated towns of Central Valley;
· Sex Workers Devoted to Santísima Muerte, a community of Latina sex workers in San Francisco, who embrace the female folk deity Santísima Muerte;
· Transcendence, the world's only transgender gospel choir; and
· Women of Wisdom at California Institute for Women, an interfaith and multicultural spirituality group for female prison inmates and women from outside communities.
Golden States of Grace brings together 56 black-and-white photographs, interviews, and recordings of prayer and spoken word from project participants. Together, the audio and visual components document the spirit and vitality of the communities on the margins. Nahmias spent three years photographing and interviewing his subjects.
“Golden States of Grace is a study of otherness—the otherness out there, the otherness within each of us, the otherness that begs us to bind together as human beings to celebrate, contemplate, and find meaning in our lives,” said Nahmias.
The exhibit will run through March 18. In conjunction with the show, a reception is set for Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. In addition, Nahmias will be onsite at the museum on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. for a talk titled “Diversity, Community, and the Margins of American Society.” The artist will share examples of his work and offer unique images and insights into communities found on the margins. All programs are free and open to the public.