Cincinnati Art Museum presents Performing the Goddess, a solo exhibition of celebrated photographer, filmmaker and publisher Naveen Kishore’s intimate and intense serial portrait that puts the audience in close proximity with an actor’s private rite of transformation. Newly acquired by the museum, the seventeen photographs in Performing the Goddess depict the actor Chapal Bhaduri. Once famed for his work in jatra (a popular theater form in Bengali-speaking regions of India and Bangladesh), Bhaduri lost his prominence when women actors began to portray female characters previously played by men. Bhaduri instead found work as an itinerant performer playing the goddess Sitala, whom devotees worship for protection from disease.
In Performing the Goddess, we witness Bhaduri’s reverent and precise nightly preparation for the role of Sitala and his exhausted stripping away of costume after the performance. This body of work makes a crucial commentary on the performative nature of gender.