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UNM Art Museum opens ornate exhibition ‘Mysterious Inner Worlds’

In her first solo exhibition in New Mexico, Anila Quayyum Agha started showing “Mysterious Inner Worlds” on Friday, Feb, 18 at the University of New Mexico Art Museum. With a unique combination of Islamic architecture and personal concepts about sacred spaces’ patterns, the exhibit has four sculptures that are all activated by light.

The installation is comprised of works of paper, beads, metal and light, with Agha’s designs being guided by traditional Pakistani artistry and made to convey feelings associated with her experiences with religion, gender, culture and danger, according to the UNMAM gallery guide. 

Many of the pieces use the sewing techniques taught by her mother as well as beads and papers sourced from Pakistan, according to the UNMAM gallery guide. The UNMAM website says Agha draws from her experiences as a woman and immigrant; she moved to the U.S. from Pakistan in 2001.

“Agha’s approach to her two-dimensional work comes from her childhood in Pakistan as well as her training as an artist. Agha’s mother taught her to sew when she was five years old,”  the gallery guide reads.

Agha’s work ranges from “monumental installations to intricate embroidered drawings,” according to the UNMAM website. The website says she studies textile design and “treats drawings like textiles by embroidering paper with thread and beads sourced from her native Pakistan.”

“Agha’s work engages more broadly with the dynamic and contradictory relationships among immigrant experiences as well as the intersectionality of gender, religion, labor and social codes,” the UNMAM website reads.

The largest body of work, “Intersections,” is an award-winning laser-cut steel cage of light. It casts intricate shadows across the largest room in the gallery, creating an interactive opening piece and priming viewers for a series of 10 more pieces.

Other works are meant to evoke sentiments of inherent belonging despite socio-economic exclusion, according to the UNMAM gallery guide. “Mysterious Inner Worlds (Gold)represents the suppressed, often unrecognized resilience of women in Pakistani society.

“While the materials of her pieces often appear fragile, Agha describes them as ‘resilient, hardy, even stubborn,’ serving as a symbol for women in repressive societies,” the gallery guide reads.

The exhibit will be showing at UNMAM until July 2.

Natalie Jude is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at and on Twitter @natalaroni

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