For this year's ArtPrize, the international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one of the 25 shortlisted pieces deserves our complete attention. Laser-cut wood was the medium of choice for Intersections, Pakistan-born artist Anila Quayyum Agha's cube that magically suspends from the ceiling.
The delicately carved, lace-like wooden piece occupies an entire gallery. A single light bulb projecting from within it fills the room with beautiful shadows and light transforming all who enter. The geometric patterning is often associated with Islamic sacred spaces. While inviting, the installation also speaks of the exclusion of women from spaces of community and creativity such as a mosque. While growing up in Pakistan, the artist remembered these different places. As she says, “The wooden frieze emulates a pattern from the Alhambra, which was poised at the intersection of history, culture and art and was a place where Islamic and Western discourses, met and co-existed in harmony and served as a testament to the symbiosis of difference. For me the familiarity of the space visited at the Alhambra Palace and the memories of another time and place from my past, coalesced in creating this project. My intent with this installation was to give substance to mutualism, exploring the binaries of public and private, light and shadow, and static and dynamic. This installation project relies on the purity and inner symmetry of geometric design, the interpretation of the cast shadows and the viewer's presence within a public space.”
As MLive states, “The beauty and complexities of the visual experience immediately call to mind the rich traditions of Islamic art. The entire space is at once exotic and beautiful, experiential, but ultimately an illusion. Without doubt, this is more than a must-see, but a must experience.”