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Andy Richter: 2016 Finalist

Serpent in the Wilderness is an ongoing visual meditation on yoga. While this ancient Indian science has deep roots in Hindu mythology and doctrine, today it is mainstream, global and growing in popularity. In Sanskrit, the word “yoga” is used to signify connection or union and is associated with heightened awareness of oneself. It is both a series of techniques for realization and state of being. While the external form and the context may vary—from turban-wearing Sikhs of the Kundalini tradition, to chanting Bhakti yogis of the Krishna Consciousness movement, to spandex clad urban yogis sweating in the studio—all practices point to greater awareness, a peaceful mind, a healthy body and a compassionate heart.

Today in the United States, over twenty million people practice yoga. Soldiers returning form conflict zones are practicing Transcendental Meditation to deal with Post Traumatic Stress. Prisoners are transforming their relationship to anger and violence through yoga. Scientific research continues to support the mental, emotional and physiological benefits of yoga and meditation. Over five years, I have traveled to places that are historically relevant to its past and others that embody its present. From living rooms across America to ashrams and caves throughout India, the work reveals hidden layers and rarely seen dimensions of yoga.

Despite yoga’s worldwide growth and appeal, understanding and media attention tends to be superficial, focused on celebrity yogis, or the physical, youthful and commercial aspects of the practice. Yet this project suggests it is something more: a profound spiritual path and way of life that is both accessible and transcends cultural barriers. —Andy Richter

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