There is a fragile beauty in the delicate paper pieces of Roya Amigh that float in the air of Iron Tail Gallery.
Crafted from paper with needle and thread, Amigh’s pieces knit together rough rectangles into wall-like forms, put together a few paper panels into a constructions that look like fragments of ancient documents and bunch and twist the paper into abstract sculptures that hang from wires and explode with subtle grace under the lights.
But that’s just the surface of the work in “Like a tale we hear,” the first solo exhibition from the Iranian-born and educated artist, outside of New York, Boston and her native land.
And it is her life in Iran and her heritage that supply the depth of Amigh’s captivating work.
Beginning with drawings based on the imagery of Persian miniatures, Amigh moves those images onto paper with glue and composing thread, incorporating symbols from mythology that include beings such as Human, Drage and Daeve as they appear in the writings of poets like Rumi along with the ancient-looking people.
But the miniatures aren’t used to tell old stories. Rather, as she writes in her artist’s statement: “Echoing the natural distortions of memory, I create my own version of this mythology in my practice, featuring stories that happened to me or to the women I know.”
That’s most easily seen in “Back and Forth.” The piece assembles about two dozen paper fragments into a wall-sized whole that finds the stitched and glued-on characters moving across the surface, clearly telling a story or stories.
It’s difficult to suss out every detail of the narratives. But the stories are there and, with a little study, impossible to miss -- depictions of hardship and struggle of contemporary women in the male-dominated, Islamic, traditional society.
In “The Anonymous Diary" and ”The Omnibus,” two fragment-like pieces, the figures aren’t as distinct, blending into the swirling lines amidst the symbols. But there’s still a narrative sense inside the piece that feels old and looks like it could fall apart at any time.
The sculptural pieces are masterworks of design and function. “The Empty Space,” constructed for the Iron Tail space, combines pink shards with the black thread and symbols on the white paper that is manipulated and glued into an abstracted sculpture -- who knows what its origin. I see it as something geologic.
It hangs in the center of the gallery, becoming more transfixing later in the day as the space darkens and its illumination by the gallery lights deepens its volume and highlights its complex structure.
Taken as a whole, the pieces in “Like a tale we hear” function as Amigh intended, becoming meditative, for both the artist in their construction and the viewer, while crossing lines between story and daydream, reality and the imagined, contemporary and ancient.
“Like a tale we hear” isn’t a large show. Amigh brought it to Lincoln from Boston in two boxes checked as baggage on an airline. But the handful of pieces are so deep and captivating, I’ve been to Iron Tail three times to see them and am likely to return before the show ends.