When people see Anila Quayyam Agha’s art, they often remark about its beauty and the beauty it creates around them, but Agha wants her art to be more than beautiful.
“Infusing it with meaning is imperative for me,” said Agha, who was named Augusta University’s Morris Eminent Scholar in Art more than a year ago. She spoke at the Morris Museum of Art’s art at lunch event Oct. 22.
Agha’s work isn’t confined to one medium. She designs large installations that, while beautiful, contain contrasting themes, bringing them together in a balance.
Born in Pakistan in 1965, Agha was thrust into a world where she saw two wars between her homeland and India before she was 6. She struggled with issues of gender inequality and when she came to the United States, she felt the same type of discrimination as an immigrant that she felt in her homeland.
At the heart of her work are the studies of the contrasts. Themes of light/dark, masculine/feminine, life/death, private space and public space and religion versus secularism. Shadows and light are familiar in multiple pieces.
She presented a slide show of some of her pieces.
She often uses materials such as wood or steel as a base of a cube or other shape and then designs intricate patterns. A light bulb illuminates the space.
“Crossing Boundaries” was a 2017 piece featuring a four-foot, black lacquered cube, suspended with a halogen bulb inside. The patterns on the faces of the cube are influenced by some of the designs seen in her homeland, a place she said that developed “amnesia” of its past.
When the bulb is one the light casts the shadows of the pattern across the walls, ceilings and floors.
She also creates smaller scale items.
Artwork such as embroidery or needlework has been often relegated to the life of a domestic person, shunned and looked down upon in some cultures, but Agha takes that artform to a different level.
“It’s tricky to stitch paper,” she said.
As the Morris Eminent Scholar, Agha wants to build a sense of community and to bring people onto the campus. A juried exhibition of student work opened at the Mary S. Byrd Gallery at Augusta University Oct. 21 and runs through Dec. 1.
It features the works of 22 students.
Agha currently has an installation at Auburn University. It will be available through Jan. 2.
The Morris Museum of Art has multiple upcoming programs including its monthly Music at the Morris at 2 p.m. Sunday with pianist Andy Reid. The event is free. Also, the museum will present “The Cotton Club” at its Film on Fridays at noon Oct. 29.
For information on additional events at the museum, visit themorris.org.