Hindu Deities Along the Gulf Coast
Lynda Frese
Lord Ganesha in the Den

The experience of making photographs after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was heartbreaking but also riveting; I always brought a friend or students for company.  We explored the small towns, some completely destroyed, in Mississippi and Southwest Louisiana as well as the city of New Orleans.  Tables in my studio filled with stacks of 3x5” pictures of color or black and white objects and landscapes. The images functioned as raw data, documents, an inventory of loss and the power of nature.

Tara in the Living Room

Around the same time I traveled to northern India to practice yoga and study the gorgeous Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses.  Sacred altars for the deities are everywhere; garish figures made with shiny and homely materials are set against the drawn mountainous landscape of the Himalayas. I was reminded of the crèche scenes in rural Europe with their Madonna figures set into grottoes.  And then the votive offerings of flowers, incense, food and prayer reminded me of the mixed Catholic/Voodoo altars of my friends in Louisiana.

I use both digital and silver photo processes, sometimes combined with other media. Hindu Deities along the Gulf Coast is a series of pigment ink digital prints.  In these hybrid landscapes vibrant religious statues are dropped into real spaces destroyed by the storms. The figures offer themselves to the contemporary ruins of the South.  This series gives recent cultural and environmental upheaval another kind of mythological dimension.

Lord Ganesha in the Den shows the benevolent aspect of the Hindu deity inside a ruined house in Mississippi. The Elephant God is known as guardian of doorways and thresholds; he removes obstacles and delivers others.  Shiva (seated at Holly Beach) is the god of destruction and creation. Lord Hanuman, king of the monkey gods, represents fierce devotion and is called “the one with a broken jaw”.  In Tara in the Living Room the goddess of compassion floats over household objects, arranged like makeshift altars by homeowners and anonymous visitors to the ruined living spaces.


Siva Seated at Holly Beach











Search The Journal of Southern Religion
This site was designed by Randall J. Stephens and is  maintained by Arthur Remillard. © 1998-2008 by
The Journal of Southern Religion. All rights reserved. ISSN 1094-5253