Jan 24, 2013
Humboldt State University’s First Street Gallery presents, “Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited,” a photo documentary exhibit by Rick Nahmias, made possible by alumni gifts to the Humboldt Loyalty Fund. Programs benefited by the Fund span the university and include student scholarships, faculty research, academic programs, the library and special projects.
This traveling exhibit of black and white photography depicts the invisible communities of California’s religious landscape. California has long been sanctuary for people of myriad religious faiths — those in the mainstream as well as those on the fringes of society. While conventional middle class religion is widely visible, rarely seen are the sacred worlds of marginalized groups: the outcasts, the fallen, those society has labeled as “other,” those for whom religion was arguably first formed, but who now worship as a means of finding refuge or of forging community where they would otherwise have none.
Golden States of Grace, created by acclaimed photographer and writer, Rick Nahmias, documents a transgender gospel choir; San Quentin inmates who have converted to Zen Buddhism; a branch of the Mormon Church created by and catering to the deaf and a halfway house for recovering Jewish addicts. Each community represents a different denomination, a different part of the state’s geography, and different ethnic group.
From 2003-2006, Nahmias examined the question: “How are spiritual individuals who live outside the mainstream of an increasingly fundamentally faith-based society, finding place, meaning and community in their lives?” To do this, he spent time documenting those who, because of world events, society’s prejudices, or their own actions, have been all but silenced.
Merging art, humanities and theology, Golden States of Grace will bring together the personal and collective histories of spiritual groups from Santa Rosa to San Diego who, consciously or not, are reinventing time-honored modes of worship and ritual and pushing their respective traditions into the 21st century. With Golden States of Grace, Nahmias wants to provide more than a window for viewing diverse religions and lifestyles – he hopes to encourage his audience to “see the ‘us’ in ‘them.’”
“Rick is extremely skilled at entering communities, winning people’s trust, and capturing the spirit of a place and its people. His photographs share the triumphs, joys, and anguish of his amazingly diverse subjects, and offer us captivating images of overlooked residents of our golden state,” says Lois Ann Lorentzen, Ph.D., Director of The Religion and Immigration Project at the University of San Francisco, which along with The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Kurz Family Foundation supplied seed grants for the project.
The exhibit runs Feb. 1 through March 3 with an artist’s talk March 1 at 5 p.m. in room 102 of the Art Building on HSU’s campus. There will also be a book signing and reception from 6-9 p.m. March 2 at the gallery. HSU’s First Street Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 5:00 p.m. and is located at 422 First Street, Eureka, California. Admission is free.and those planning group tours are encouraged to call ahead at (707) 443-6363. To learn more, visit humboldt.edu/first.