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Asian Art Museum
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A Journey Into the Great Unknown

Feb 28 —
Oct 29, 2017

3RD FLOOR, GALLERY 5

“Energy sparked by creativity is full of potential.”  So begins Shahzia Sikander’s account describing the sense of exploration and excitement sparked by her recent collaboration with the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, novelist and screenwriter Ayad Akhtar. 
Both Pakistani Americans, Sikander and Akhtar have incorporated their Muslim heritage into their separate practices in ways that challenge mainstream perceptions of American Muslim identity. 

The result of their original collaboration will be on view in our south Asia galleries. Entitled Portrait of the Artist, the work, a suite of four etching and a related colophon written by Akhtar, explores the theme of Mi'raj — the mystical night journey of the Prophet Muhammad. A powerful theme in Persian and Indian painting traditions. Mi'raj is a "metaphor for the realm of the imagination," according to Sikander. 

"The interest of using Mi'raj as a point of departure for this collaboration arose from my conversations with Akhtar about the Prophet, and the rich and complicated heritage he represents for the community," she writes. 

In the colophon, Akhtar describes the Mi'raj as "the fulfillment of any artist's deepest longing: to have made a journey into the great unknown — to have seen the unseeable — and to return to the world as we know it with the capacity to express the inexpressible. 

— Karin Oen,
Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art