Philbrook Art Museum welcomed artist Anila Quayyum Agha and her “Shadow of Time” installation to its main level on November 10th. The main installment of “Shadow of Time” is on display in the Helmerich Gallery and include Anila’s immersive award-winning piece “Intersections” and seven paper pieces.
Agha also has two of her works in other areas of the Philbrook. One piece is in the villa and one piece is on the Philbrook lawn.
Agha stated that she was inspired to create a larger than life interpretation of her visit to Alhambra in south Spain. During her visit to Alhambra she witnessed the people around her standing in awe with her and she felt a sense of unity and belonging in that experience that became a driving factor in the creation of “Intersections.”
When talking about Alhambra, Agha describes this world heritage site as a “Beacon of Light to Islamic Nations. In a way, she says, “Intersections” is almost a critique of monotheistic religions.
The piece is a 6’6” black cube laser cut with Islamic geometric designs that speak to Agha. Though heavy the cube is also very fragile, and it is contradictory because the cube is both minimalistic and complex.
This complex minimalism is symbolic of the contradictions that people fact each day, and the single halogen light bulb in the cube is symbolic of unity.
The exhibition space for “Intersections” at the Philbrook Museum is 44’ by 44’ by 15’, allowing the shadow cast by the light bulb to fill the entire space, and cast over each individual that enters the space. Agha mentions, in a talk she held on the installations opening day, that she uses her art to voice her views on social issues.
The goal Agha hopes to achieve with her artwork is to bring similarities out in people rather than search out their differences. The light shining through the 600-800 lb. black cube is non-discriminatory and welcomes all people from all walks of life.
The shadows cast on onlookers remain the same, judgement or division based on denomination, race, or sexual orientation are disregarded in this area to help show that all people are alike. Out on the Philbrook lawn stands Agha’s “This is NOT a Refuge” piece, which speaks on the change in the United States’ social climate in relation to U.S. citizens becoming anti-immigration.
“This is NOT a Refuge” has an audio component within its home-resembling structure which onlookers hear the firsthand accounts of immigrants that have come to the United States and the struggles they have faced. Some even tell of struggles faced before migrating to the U.S.
This work of art is Agha’s first asymmetrical piece. Growing up in Pakistan, Agha had the opportunity to attend a British boarding school with British nuns.
Her mother taught her to sew and embroider which she now incorporates into her artwork. Her father was a supporter of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, but after his assassination life became challenging for Agha and her family.
Due to these challenges Agha began working two or three jobs to put herself through school at NCA. She first began showing her work in University shows and then solo shows. Because of how unique Agha’s art is it took some time before she became selling well, but she stated that she felt grateful to be able to show her art.
When she arrived in the U.S. Agha came to find it difficult to find work in the country, so she made the decision to attend graduate school in Texas. She now teaches in Indianapolis, IN.