Walking into the gallery, I was overwhelmed by the brightness of the yellow paint covering the entirety of the room. A chamber of light appeared to float in the center of the room. It was, is in fact, a laser-cut steel cube with a single light bulb in the center: Anila Quayyum Agha’s All The Flowers Are For Me (2017).
At first, the room’s radical brightness made it difficult to recognize the intricate patterns of shadow that are being reflected from floor to ceiling of the gallery space. As my eyes slowly adjusted, I realized I was surrounded by Turkish and Persian floral patterns that were like nothing I had ever seen before. Along with covering the walls, the projections covered my entire body, leaving a grayish silhouette of myself on the wall behind me. I felt as if I was in an in-between state: not wholly myself, yet also not completely the shadow behind me. This liminal feeling, coupled with the installation’s title, reminded me of a recent conversation I had shared with a close friend about our favorite flowers.
I know very little about flowers, but I do know that I love orchids with a passion. In the midst of procrastinating during finals week, a friend and I began discussing beautiful flowers. We both agreed that orchids are among the most visually stimulating flora. To us, orchids represent the quintessential beauty of flowers—complex structures, found in nature, that are too multifaceted, too difficult to artificially recreate.
Agha’s floating floral cube reminded me of this simple conversation that ended up meaning so much to me. I was reminded of the commonalities that shape my relationships, and this conversation served to strengthen my faith in building relationships with people who see beauty in the world: whether that be the beauty of a conversation or the simple appeal of a flower. Inside Agha’s installation, I felt as if I were reliving that conversation—each word that we had spoken became the projected floral patterns seemingly plastered to the bright yellow walls.
I wished my friend was standing there with me, soaking in the floral pattern as if it were the sun; however, she was at home on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I felt her absence, but I also felt the weight of the inevitability of future conversations we will have discussing art, music, literature and more. A simple conversation, that lasted no more than five minutes, was being artistically projected, filling an entire room with significance. I stood alone in the gallery, re-listening to our shared words, finding beauty in each word, and smiling at the thought of a serenely beautiful future, full of projections, of conversations, and of flowers. –Chris Fitzgerald
Chris Fitzgerald ’20 is from Malden, MA. He studies English and Spanish at Wesleyan University.
All The Flowers Are For Me (2017)
Anila Quayyum Agha
On View at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA until April 1, 2018
Admission is $20 for adults and $12 for students with I.D.