The towers and aircraft in this painting call to mind the 9/11 attacks. The towers also suggest oil derricks, possible referencing the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, which was brought into question during President Bush’s impending invasion of Iraq. Heraldry links present-day policies to colonial- era exploitation. The large purse-like form is a lingam casket, which holds an amulet. The spiderweb is a reference to the one in a popular tale that shielded Muhammad from persecutors as he hid in a cave. The lush landscape with animals both nurtured and preyed on—copied from a Mughal manuscript painting—is the foundation of this composition filled with references to protection and destruction.

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Web, 2002
Ink, gouache, gravure, and inkjet outlines, on tea-stained wasli paper
RISD Museum: Paula and Leonard Granoff Fund 2003.46
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.