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Merging Souls: Arts of Devotion in Latin America illuminates the rich visual and material cultures of the southern regions of the Americas from the pre-Hispanic and colonial periods to the present day. Drawing together works from diverse peoples, regions, and modern nations, the exhibition testifies to the centrality of art in Latin American communities and the varied means by which the sacred is perceived and expressed.

Merging Souls explores two forms of artistic synthesis: the merging of beliefs and practices and the merging of distinct cultural traditions. The first highlights the interplay of theology and practice – sacred ideals inspire artistic creations just as material forms shape religious thoughts and expressions. The second examines the visible and invisible mixes of Amerindian, African, and European cultures. Colonization brought together peoples from a range of ethno-linguistic regions and traditions, and artistic production and celebration served as particularly potent mediums of expression. Through art, individuals and communities preserved many traditional practices and incorporated new ones, developing unique hybrid forms and customs in response to local circumstances and needs.

Organized by theme, material, locale, and time period, the objects in Merging Souls embody the ongoing dialogues between individuals, communities, and the divine that inspire artistic creation, generating new forms, contexts, and meanings. Visitors are encouraged to consider the social power structures that engendered these objects and their uses. At the same time, visitors should explore the power of art to express and to shape the variety of personal, cultural, and devotional experiences.

We would like to thank; Latin American Studies Program, American Studies Program, Department of Art and Art History, Department of Anthropology, Lyon G. Taylor Department of History, John and Scottie Austin, Professor Curtis Moyer, and Professor Susan V. Webster.

Student curators:
Katrina Christiano, Elizabeth Cook, Laurel Daen, Alix Méav Ellinwood-Jerome