Born and raised in Pakistan, Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969) gained international recognition in the 1990s for her pioneering role in bringing painting traditions from South and Central Asia into dialogue with contemporary practices. Her work interrogates cultural identity, racial narratives, colonial and postcolonial histories, and issues of gender and sexuality. Through multivalent narratives layered across time, geography, and tradition, she shatters established hierarchies, norms, and stereotypes, using her imagination and playfulness to conjure extraordinary realities.
This exhibition explores the first 15 years of Sikander’s career, from her formal training in manuscript painting as a student at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, where she enrolled in 1987, to her early years in the United States. Sikander moved to Providence in 1993 to study at the Rhode Island School of Design. She then lived in Houston for two years before settling in New York in 1997. Her work during this period reflects a new openness in the United States toward artists working outside of commonly accepted models, as well as a dramatic shift in the perception of Muslims following the events of 9/11. The potent vocabulary of Sikander’s early work continues to permeate her oeuvre today, and the subjects she confronted then have only become more relevant to contemporary discourse.
Houghton P. Metcalf Jr. Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
This exhibition is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Scintilla Foundation, and the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc. Additional publication support from the Vikram and Geetanjali Kirloskar Visiting Scholar in Painting Endowed Fund at the Rhode Island School of Design and Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.
This project is a part of the Feminist Art Coalition’s nationwide initiative highlighting feminist practices in the arts.
RISD Museum is supported by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with the generous partnership of the Rhode Island School of Design, its Board of Trustees, and Museum Governors.
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