The pendulum was an apt symbol for Sikander, representing the nuanced spectrum of constantly shifting interpretations she encourages in her work. Some of the new vocabulary she developed in Houston revolved around signifiers of identity, especially hairstyle and clothing, as she questioned the stereotypes associated with them. Here, a self-portrait with an elaborate coiffure and a high collar masking her face functions as the pendulum’s weight. Sikander was exploring how outer appearances have historically been used to control and contain women.

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Pendulum, 1996
Watercolor, gouache, and graphite, on tea-stained wasli paper
Collection of Mrs. Claire Ankenman
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.