Moroccan Memories: Light and Texture in Full Color, at the Toledo Museum of Art

Sweet dreams are made of this

Who am I to disagree?

I’ve traveled the world and the seven seas

Everybody’s lookin’ for something

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams
Intersection by Anila Quayyum Agha

Intersection stopped me in my tracks! I’d been looking at marble busts, larger than life oil paintings, and ancient Japanese netsuke (ornately carved miniature button fasteners) all morning. This was something else – immersive, colorful, engulfing.

Suddenly I’m reminded of my world travels, in the days before COVID-19, when I could catch a flight without fear of exposure. My spirit lifts; it’s a wonderful feeling! Everybody’s looking for something, right?

I felt like I was in Morocco; I remembered being in Morocco and could almost smell the bustling market with all its spices, fruits, and nuts. Merchants shouted to prospective customers who could move along more quickly if they weren’t packed so tightly into the narrow aisles.

The expansive desert, at sunset, comes to mind. We’d put our cameras down, upon the insistence of the most seasoned photographer among us. We sat together and watched the sun set, slowly, on the sandy horizon. The moment soaked into us, filling us up, being fully experienced. I was concerned that I might not remember it, so the camera did not remain at my side long. It was back in my hands, capturing memories I feared would be fleeting.

How can an art installation in Toledo, OH take me back? Inexplicably, there are works of art that speak (some shouting, some whispering) to each of us. These are the ones that you want to spend time with. You want to experience them on your own, away from other museum patrons. You wait patiently, realizing that the art is there for everyone to enjoy.

“And thanks to the benevolence of its founders, as well as the continued support of its members, TMA remains a privately endowed, non-profit institution and opens its collection to the public, free of charge.” (Toledo Museum of Art website)

Intersection is the title of the piece.

You walk into a modestly sized room with intensely painted, maroon walls. The dark color is heavy, exotic, and rich with flavor, compared to the surrounding museum exhibits. The room is dim and shadowy, lit by an intense light source hanging at the center of the room. The unexpected effect is created by the wooden cage that surrounds the light, obscuring it and causing shadows that create intricate patterns on the walls, floor, and ceiling.

Visitors have the freedom to walk around the room, circling the 6.5′ laser-cut wood cube, feeling as though they are within the artwork itself. Their own long, moving shadows become a part of the art, casting across the floor and onto the walls, full of their own depth..

Fabric artist Anila Quayyum Agha, responsible for the piece, uses shadow and light to create intricate patterns, reminiscent of those on fabric pieces. Yet this is on a much larger scale. Her work is inspired by Islamic geometric designs and interlace patterns “The walls of the cube showcase Moorish patterns inspired from the Alhambra,a place where Islamic and Christian worlds intersect.”[9]

Agha grew up in Pakistan, where she was not allowed to visit the mosques because of her gender.

“It was from these memories of exclusion and of visiting the Alhambra that Agha started to think about all the problems that arise because of exclusion and wanted to create something that would include all, regardless of race, gender, and ethnicity.”[10]

The free museum, in northern Ohio, makes this possible.

Alhambra is located in Granada, a city in southern Spain; it’s a city I aspire to visit one day. Alhambra was a fortress, a palace, and a small medina, used for military purposes. The structure is beautiful, made even more beautiful by the surrounding landscape and the light of the late afternoon sun.

The monument, a complex really, reminds me of my travels to Morocco, so I’m not surprised that Agha’s immersive art transports me back to this beautiful, exotic, harsh desert country. I’m reminded of meticulously placed tile, covering floors, walls, and ceiling, just as I am now surrounded by the shadows of Agha’s art.

The art is simple while it is complex, elaborate in its straightforward approach. It is a massive artistic statement, though it is confined to one room; the lines on the wall are soft,- blurred, I notice – due to the distance the light travels from its source to the maroon walls.

Trying to read the sign on the wall, I notice my own shadow, interlaced with the shadows of the art piece. I could stay a while; I do stay a while, to take it in. As a result, I miss seeing parts of the museum. But I’ll be back another day, and I’ll be sure to visit this room again; perhaps I’ll begin my visit there.

If you have the opportunity, visit one of the museums featuring Agha’s work, listed below.

Let me know how it strikes you!

Join me on my next adventure,

~ Kat

Related Links:

Anila Quayyum Agha: http://www.anilaagha.com/intersections

HISTORY OF THE ALHAMBRA OF GRANADA: https://www.alhambra.org/en/alhambra-history.html

National Geographic – “Who Were the Moors?”: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/who-were-moors

One comment

  1. Inspirational and so descriptive! As you are guiding us on this journey, I can feel your joy, excitement, education and love of travel and learning something new each day!
    Oh to be a fly on your suitcase!
    Dr Seuss would have loved being your traveling companion! Oh the places you have been!
    It’s awesome that you are sharing those sites closest to your home!
    They give a thrilling view of life in your neck of the woods!
    BLOG ON!!!

    Like

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