Artist Anila Quayyum Agha was barred from mosques and other cultural venues as a woman growing up in Lahore, Pakistan. Tapping into this memory of exclusion, she set out to create a space where people of all races, genders, religions and sexual orientations could experience awe. The end result was Intersections, a massive wooden cube, cut with precise Islamic designs, lit from within to create a room immersed in intricate shadows. The stunning installation, previously displayed in ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, finds a new home at Dallas Contemporary in April. To construct Intersections, Agha collaborated with engineer Steve Prachylto figure out how the shadows would look, whether they would be crisp or unfocused, and how far the light source could project them. “We looked at the sun a lot. And how at different times of the day the shadows behaved,” she tells The Creators Project. Her original design was more complex, consisting of secondary and tertiary levels of shadows to illustrate “an abundance of life.” After experimenting with the carvings and designs, she transferred them onto large wood panels with a small and affordable laser cutter.
Public places in Pakistan have always been the domain of men, explains Agha. “I became very androgynous when I was younger, which allowed me to be invisible and observe people,” she says. "A woman’s world does not extend beyond the four walls of her home. And because of that, women are sheltered from a world of creativity," she adds. “Artmaking helped me make sense of my culture.” Though she left Pakistan 15 years ago and now lives in Indianapolis, she still wonders about the potential of the women living there. “If they allowed women to be educated and to flower, what kind of prosperity would belong to their families and their lives? Wouldn’t it be great if both men and women could help to create a beautiful world around them? Intersections, she says, is her small way of contributing to gender equality.