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Shimmering Mirage at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center

Calligraphy and geometric patterns are hallmarks of Islamic art and architecture. In the Middle East the interiors of mosques, the windows of homes, and the walls of gardens and terraces are often constructed with elaborately pierced and carved screens. The patterned openwork filters light and allows air to pass through—effective strategies in dealing with the oppressive heat and bright sunlight of the region. The cutout screens also animate relatively plain interior spaces with the play of light and shadow created by their decorative designs.

Anila Quayyum Agha is passionate about bringing the beauty of Islam to the West, as well as familiarizing viewers with the conceptual grandeur of its spiritual thought about nature and the cosmos. Her steel sculpture, cut with patterns redesigned from Islamic motifs and housing a single white light bulb, transforms the gallery from an unadorned room into an enveloping world of patterned light and dark. The shadows cast in all directions by the light spilling through the sculpture’s cutout surfaces work a kind of magic, creating dynamic, intricate designs. The experience is at once weighty and weightless, transporting viewers to a mysterious, even sacred, environment.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator