The Flash Of Dallas Art Week Brings Unexpected Depth

The fair welcomes artist Anila Quayaam Agha, who uses ancient sacred geometry to create a luminescent, non-demominational mosque in the heart of Texas.

A glowing view of things to come at the Dallas Art Fair, courtesy of Anila Quayaam Agha

Dallas just got a whole lot flashier, but it has nothing to do with big hair and rhinestone sweaters. Starting today the north Texas city will play host to the Dallas Art Fair, the newest in a series of international arts events vying to become the next Art Basel Miami Beach. Among the numerous functions and galas set to take place across the city April 9th to 12th, one of the strongest is at Dallas Contemporary, where New York “it-boy” Nate Lowman, painter David Salle, and multi-media artist Anila Quayaam Agha will all be exhibiting work until August 23. Anila, a native of Pakistan and current Indianapolis resident, seeks to challenge stereotypes of the Muslim world with her installation Intersections, which provides a genderless, non-denominational, illuminated “spiritual temple” for visitors within the museum.

Intersections courtesy of Anila Quayaam Agha

In 2014, when Anila originally unveiled Intersections, it went on to win both the Public Grand and the Juried Grand Prize of ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids. The work hits that sweet spot in between intellectually challenging and visually stunning, and is composed of a 3D installation utilizing the type of patterns known as sacred geometry, a facet of design that includes symbolic and sacred meanings within its proportions, and is usually found in Islamic holy spaces. The installation consists of an ornate 6.5-foot laser-cut wooden box, hung from the ceiling of the gallery and lit from within to cast shadows on the surrounding walls. It’s meant to evoke the dazzling architecture of the Alhambra, a famed Moorish palace in Spain where “Islamic and Western discourses met and co-existed harmoniously public and private, and served as a testament to the symbiosis of difference.” Anila’s work also presents a series of “contradictions,” and, well, intersections, which range from physical boundaries, to traditional elements juxtaposed with the modern. The sanctuary and ambiance Intersections provides is meant also to recall the mosques of Anila’s homeland, from which she was often excluded as a woman growing up in Lahore.

As a reaction to male-dominated public spaces, Anila told The Creators Project, “I became very androgynous when I was younger, which allowed me to be invisible and observe people.”

In Pakistan, "a woman’s world does not extend beyond the four walls of her home,” she explained. “And because of that, women are sheltered from a world of creativity. Art making helped me make sense of my culture.”

A close-up of Intersections

When we caught up with Anila during her Dallas installation she was adamant that her work be for all. “My intent right from the start was to build a sublime space that welcomed everyone,” she says. “Being non-religious, I was more interested in creating a non-denominational space that would draw from familiar patterns that I grew up with.” She continues, “Islamic patterns are derived from nature and often due to repetition and geometry convey precision/perfection. Muslim audiences around the world are familiar with these patterns that are not only used inside mosques but also in public and private spaces.” Her art, then, is an extension of her experience. “The visit to the Alhambra, the memory of beautiful spaces from Pakistan and my exclusion from the public sphere of my own life, all contributed to this project,” she said. “In my studio practice I strive to create work that is poetic to evoke strong emotions and make the viewer think of their own personal subjective experiences that may reference not only belonging but also alienation.”

The show is in some ways a homecoming for Anila, who received her MFA in Fiber Arts from the University of North Texas. Dallas Contemporary’s newly named Senior Curator Justine Ludwig, who specializes in South Asian contemporary art, was one of the driving forces bringing Anila back. As Ludwig recently mentioned to Dallas Culture Map, “I love that Anila transforms the gallery into a contemplative space. Her work illuminates the dialogue between cultures and the permeability of borders that divide them. I find the message behind her work to be beautiful and universally accessible.”

If you happen to be traveling to Dallas for the art fair festivities, we also suggest stopping by the fourth annual MTV RE:DEFINE benefit, on Friday, April 10 at the Goss-Michael Foundation. The evening will benefit the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and Dallas Contemporary, and premiere an art exhibition, auction, and gala honoring Michael Craig-Martin – one of the most respected, influential and iconic artists in the contemporary art world. Artists Nate Lowman and Dan Colen will serve as the benefit’s music curators, with a special performance by Lizzie Bougatsos & Sadie Laska of I.U.D.

In addition, The Goss-Michael Foundation will work with Craig-Martin and the Gagosian Gallery to present a citywide exhibition of 10 works of art in public spaces in Dallas from the beginning of April through May 2015.

If you can’t swing a flight to Texas this weekend, make it a point to visit in early May, when inaugural Soluna Festival synchs the Dallas Symphony Orchestra with cutting-edge multimedia artists like Alex Prager and Pipilotti Rist.

For a full list of Dallas Art Fair festivities check here.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less