March 22, 2019

ARTofficial: ICYMI Edition

Your last chance to catch two remarkable exhibitions

That moment that just flew by? Yeah, that was the month of March. The jam-packed month heralding the start of Spring passed by so quickly, taking with it two exceptional exhibitions at local galleries Cris Worley Fine Arts and Talley Dunn. BUT! You’ve still got time to make it a date. Hurry, these show close tomorrow. —Kendall Morgan 

“Triggered” by Shannon Cannings at Cris Worley Fine Arts.
Painter Shannon Cannings’ references our blasé view of ultra-violence though her hyper-realistic canvases splashed with water pistols, space-age ray guns, and (most bizarrely) glass revolvers filled with candy dispensed through the barrel.

The artist was first drawn to painting candy-colored children’s guns in 2007. At the time, the most notable school shooting at Columbine in ’99 seemed to be an isolated incident. With a shocking 290 further massacres since 2013’s Sandy Hook, the idea of guns as toys has a resonance the artist can’t seem to quit.

“When I picked (the guns) up the first time, I thought it would be a smaller exploration, then I’d get back to painting other plastic, interesting things,” says Cannings, who also teaches art at Lubbock’s Texas Tech.

“But the thing that attracted them to me is stuck in a way that’s complicated and painful. What started as a simple question ended up more of an obsession, and an attempt to find a deeper understanding between us and our complicated relationship between violence and toys.”

Cannings feels that plastic weapons and video games “are not the problem, but a symptom of something bigger,” and that the nation’s current obsession with “fake news” puts a further filter on the reality of our country’s epidemic of violence.

By sharing her bright and bold work, she hopes to spark a dialogue that might make someone think twice before buying a child a colorful super shooter or violent game. And, until the culture changes, Cannings will keep on painting toy weapons in all their bright and shiny glory.

“I’m not making these for academics, or Conservatives or Democrats,” she says. “I’m trying to speak to a broad range of people, whether or not they see them as childlike toys. The important thing is you get sucked in by one part (of the work) and have to question what you’re looking at when you get there. It has so many facets; I can keep going with it for a while.”


“Thousand Birds” by Anila Quayumm Agha at Talley Dunn Gallery

“Itinerant Shadows” by Anila Quayyum Agha at Talley Dunn Gallery.
Indianapolis-based artist Anila Quayyum Agha made her mark on Dallas with her impactful 2015 solo show “Intersections” at the Dallas Contemporary. Her themes of public and private, natural and man-made are still in full effect at her current show “Itinerant Shadows” at Talley Dunn, but this time the work is smaller and more thoughtful than the giant 6.5-foot cube that garnered her the 2014 ArtPrize.

With multiple laser-cut steel sculptures—including an ornate cutout cottage titled “This is Not a Refuge”—as well as cut and layered works on paper, the work is no less ethereal and immersive than “Intersections,” serving as a continuum of Agha’s ethos and practice.

“It’s like where you have a conversation with yourself, but also have a conversation with what’s happening around you, locally and socially,” she explains of her inspirations. “I explore the cultural and social proceedings of religious and secular, masculine and feminine. These subjects allow me to reflect upon the idea of cultural identity, but also respond to what’s happening politically around the world. If you notice, there’s a rise of the old idea of safety connected with solidifying your boundaries and borders, and a lot of my work reflects or explores that kind of otherness.”

Her sleight-of-hand mix of solids and shadows is her way of asking us to see the light inside the dark. Referencing the designs found throughout the Middle East and Europe from her native Pakistan to Spain’s Alhambra, Agha shows the hopeful transformation of society throughout the centuries, no matter how fractious things may currently seem.

“When you put things in context, (now) is better than the 18thcentury, if we only look at it from a 2019 perspective,” she muses. “We think the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but when we put it in context, we can look at the improvements. It’s looking back and forth through a continuum and seeing the silver lining, so to speak.”