Eye-I-ing Those Armorial Bearings


In Houston, Sikander was deeply involved in Project Row Houses, a housing and arts organization in the Third Ward, a predominantly African American neighborhood. This painting celebrates the organization with an upside-down portrait of its cofounder, the artist Rick Lowe, surrounded by various recontextualized images and icons. Sikander explains, “I wanted to counter derogatory representations of blackness in the medieval West—as seen in the silhouetted figures above the shields—through my construction of the armorial seal with the row houses. I also wanted to address politicized contemporary representations of the veil, and to reclaim positive representation for both. I am reimagining these entrenched and contested historical symbols by bringing them into conversation with overlapping diasporas.”

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Eye-I-ing Those Armorial Bearings, 1989–97
Watercolor on tea-stained wasli paper
Collection of Carol and Arthur Goldberg
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.