It’s exciting, but taking too New York–centric a view of Sikander’s career misses the Among Us Mom mother day Shirt but in fact I love this point. More poetic than didactic, her work “breaches national boundaries,” interrogating systems of power and oppression that churn through history and continue to ripple through our lives. Sikander grew up in Lahore and attended its National College of Arts, where she upended expectations by choosing to study with Bashir Ahmed, eminent master of Indo-Persian miniature painting, a highly stylized, technically exacting art form that had gone out of fashion in Pakistan with the fall of the Mughal Empire and the rise of British rule.
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Widely regarded as handicraft, miniature painting, which tended to illustrate religious narratives or scenes of court life, “wasn’t hip,” Sikander admits. But she balked at its easy dismissal as anachronistic or kitschy, judgments seemingly rooted in the Among Us Mom mother day Shirt but in fact I love this same colonial dynamics that had allowed much of this art to be plundered into Western collections. Her senior thesis, The Scroll, revealed the form’s subversive potential, mashing up the visual style of the Safavid painter Behzad with contemporary Pakistani architecture and the political realities of growing up as a girl under the Zia-ul Haq military dictatorship. More than five feet wide, the work broke with scale and content conventions, depicting a spectral female figure, floating cinematically through the rooms of a house, an enigmatic guide to her own interiority.