The artist, Mánjari Sharma, who captured the essence of Maa Laxmii, Hindu goddess of good fortune, visited Body Awakening on the full moon-lit evening of November. Making our way through ActivSpace, we take some time to get to know each other. Once inside the studio, our conversation journeys visually around the space. Laxmii immediately catches her eye. Her photoportrait is overlooking the studio space, as well as San Francisco.
I take a few moments to elaborate the artist expressions population our vibrant healing space. I highlight the elemental characters on the adjacent wall; water, wind, fire, earth, and the intangible element from four cultures across the globe adorning it. We admire the view to the West over San Francisco. Body Awakening’s paradigm for well-being surrounds a reflection box, upon which a gilded Buddha meditates.
We turn back to the Laxmii’s peacock blue wall adorned with a hand-painted peacock feather. The color and feather spark a conversational tangent where Mánjari and I discuss some of our more poignant dreams and their meanings. We are entranced in each other’s experiential perspectives of our worlds and the messages interpreted out of these; through dreams.
Mánjari and I sit on the midnight purple floor. She, like Laxmii, is generous enough to have brought her portfolio. I anticipate seeing a series of classic photoportraits of Hindu gods. They are there, but first she takes me through a series of emotionally cathartic portraits that emerged before the concept of reproducing Indian classics. I am gripped by the people in her photographs. They are pouring their hearts our in these visual windows of time. The emotional content is palpable. Coincidentally or not, all the photographs were taken between the hours of 11am and 1pm. My jaw drops at the realization that these were taken during the peak time frame for the heart meridian in Traditional Chinese Medicine. We are both awed by this circumstance bringing a moment of emotional outpour for the subjects in Mánjari’s Shower Series. Our chat weaves into a parallel association of massage facilitating emotional catharsis during a vulnerable situation. The people in her photo series find a moment of individual freedom very similar to that of a great massage.
Something about this experiential series inspires Mánjari looks to her roots. She taps into her cultures’ archetypes represented by Hindu gods; recreating, with as much precision as possible, classic images of Laxmii, Vishnu, Brahma, Durga, Saraswati, Shiva, Kali, Ganesha, & Hanuman. She informs me that each scene was “constructed around the person found to assume the role of these deities from scratch.” Without whom, the scenes cannot be developed. According to her, the world develops after the particular god is chosen to play the part. I find this particularly interesting in light of the way our own worlds are populated. We all have our own unique character, and our environment is enriched by our attributes. These images of Hindu gods represent the same in a timeless, exemplary fashion. It causes me to think about what these deities represent: symbols of the best characteristics of humanity. Mánjari captures this nuance in her Darshan series.
She explains that each person depicting a god came to her through a combination of coincidence and serendipity. Each one had a tendency to honor that god in their own life: fortuitous coincidences. The person portraying Shiva, for example, was raised in Varanasi in a household which has celebrated the gracefully dancing god of destruction for centuries. It is no small task to emulate the character of a god, even for an instant. The subjects donned their roles well, and the result is stunning.
We are grateful to have Mánjari’s photoportrait of Maa Laxmii keeping vigil over our space, pouring good fortune over all in her gaze.
Thank you, Mánjari, for elaborating your passion for capturing characteristics of humanity through your photography, and, once again, visiting our studio. We are honored to have your art residing in Body Awakening.
*accent added by Author to guide pronunciation of artist’s name