The Cincinnati Art Museum is home to many wonders, but artist Anila Quayyum Agha puts a whole new meaning behind the term wonderment with her work in the exhibition, "All the Flowers are for Me (Red)."
This Pakistani-American artist creates a calm, meditative atmosphere through the use of patterns inspired by Islamic architectures from her homeland. In this exhibit, the patterns are laser cut into steel and four panels come together to make a cube, where inside lay a single light bulb.
“Inspired by Islamic architectural forms and referencing her experience as a diaspora artist, the geometric and floral patterns cast upon the walls, floor and ceiling create a sense of belonging through shared experience,” reads the description on the museum’s website.
Upon entering the room, one is immediately transcended into a whole new immersive realm. Emotions that invade into the viewer instantly are ones of complete calmness. The patterns are cast onto the four walls in the room, and the single bulb illuminates for a more intimate setting. The patterns are also casted onto everyone's body that is in the room. This makes the work even more immersive because as the viewer moves, the patterns glide across the skin for a visual treat.
Exhibit guard Julie Hidalgo said Agha's work has really impacted people.
“It brought a sense of wonderment,” Hidalgo said. “I’ve noticed people want to get close to it.”
Hidalgo also mentioned that viewers want to get close and even lay under the work and meditate to really take it all in. She said sometimes, the massive red cube even accidentally gets bumped and the moving shadows casted can be perceived as even more tranquil — and even nausea-inducing for some because of how immersive the piece is.
“It really speaks to people,” she said.
Agha's goal was to enforce a feeling of belonging to viewers through this kind of shared experience. She was feeling disconnected from her family after migrating to the United States, and was also dealing with the loss of her mother. The distance between her two homes was weighing on her. She turned this pain into something to which many can relate.
In correlation, within the exhibit are accompanied works on paper that also use the same kind of cutout techniques.
Agha is also the 2017 recipient of The Marjorie Schiele Prize. This award recognizes the best works of art and design done by artists who are still living.
The exhibit will be on view through Oct. 15 and will also be included in Cincinnati's BLINK celebration. This celebration stretches between 20 blocks downtown and takes place Oct. 12-15.