Pantheon: Photography by Cara Walton

A collection of portraits of gods from different myths and cultures

When I was a little girl living in what was then West Germany in the early 1980s, I used to sneak into the high school library at Patch Barracks School and read Grimm’s Fairy Tales; it was the start of an obsession. I have always been fascinated by mythology and religion. I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading fantasy and science fiction. I love the stories of myths and folktales, they are universal. Courses on mythology and religion  were some of my favorite classes in college and graduate school and are some of my favorite lessons to teach in my classes today.  I have often commented that because I teach history, I essentially get to tell stories for a living. Myths tell us a lot about who we are and where we come from.  They were a way for our ancestors to explain the world around them and draw connections to the earth and the rhythms of the natural world. They give us insight into what people found important and the way they viewed human nature. Some are beautiful and some are terrifying.  The spectrum of myths span all aspects of our human experience.  This project’s genesis was a work of art by the Richmond-based muralist and artist Andre “Bmbprf” Shank of the goddess Virtue on the Virginia state flag. After seeing his painting, I had the idea of doing portraits of people as ancient gods, but in a modern setting. The first piece shot was a self portrait as the Furies from Greek myth. As I reached out to my friends to model for me, I asked them to model for portraits of gods to whom they felt a particular connection, or who had a connection to their ethnic background.  I also had some folks contact me about being in the project. The portraits are meant to be a modern take on ancient ideas and aren’t too heavy on costumes or props.  I wanted to be able to represent the gods in a way that was minimal, but still getting across the essence of the beings and what  they represent. I also wanted to have a variety of myths represented beyond the all-too-typical Eurocentric focus.  I hope to continue with this project through the years and produce additional works in the collection.  

“All your questions can be answered, if that is what you want. But once you learn your answers, you can never unlearn them.”

― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

This event is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Arts Council of the Valley