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Avatars of the Hindu Deity, Vishnu, examined at Michael C. Carlos Museum

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Avatars of the Hindu Deity, Vishnu, examined at Michael C. Carlos Museum

Photo provided by Michael C. Carlos Museum.
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Atlanta, GA —The Michael C. Carlos Museum presents “The Avatars of Vishnu” from April 24 through June 20, a press release announced.

This student-curated exhibition examines Vishnu, one of the most popular Hindu deities, who manifests in various forms known by the Sanskrit term avatāra, which means descent.

The exhibition, presented in the John Howett Works on Paper Gallery of the Michael C. Carlos Museum, was curated by Emory students in the Spring semester 2021 course, “Depicting God in Hinduism: The Avatars of Vishnu,” taught by Dr. Ellen Gough, assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Religion.

Dr. Gough said, “I have been so impressed with the students’ creativity and engagement with the project, they threw themselves into researching each of their assigned pieces for the exhibition – from a 10th-century statue of the boar incarnation of Vishnu to a 19th-century watercolor of Krishna as the cosmos – and they paid attention to all the details necessary for curating an engaging, meaningful exhibition. A particularly fun moment in class occurred when we were looking at the 18th-century painting of Vishnu’s fish avatar, and a student found the exact type of fish depicted in the painting: the Golden Mahseer, an endangered species found in the Himalayan region.”

Gough added, “these students spent hours and hours carefully looking at these paintings and sculptures, drawing our attention to all sorts of distinctive details that shed light on the communities who made these objects and how they defined God.”

The avatars’ stories are told in sacred texts, oral narratives, images, dance, music, and other performance traditions throughout South Asia and beyond. This exhibition displays paintings, sculptures, and objects of popular culture dated between the 10th and 19th centuries. The bronze, black stone, and sandstone sculptures come from North, South, and East India. The watercolor paintings were for the most part created by master painters in the courts of the Rajput kingdoms of Northwest India.

For more information, please visit the exhibition page here.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous financial support of the Christian Humann Foundation and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

Carlos gave a special thanks to Jayantilal K. and Geeta J. Patel & Family, Harshna and Pyush Patel, the Nathan Rubin Ida Ladd Foundation, and Dr. William Torres for helping the museum enhance its collection of South Asian art through gifts and loans.

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