There’s still time for you to visit the Mennello Museum of Art to experience one of the most compelling installations that charming lakeside institution in the Loch Haven Park area has ever hosted. Pick a time when it won’t be crowded. Most any weekday will do. Go alone or with someone you care about. Don’t talk. Don’t think. Just let the ingeniously immersive installations created by Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha wash over you. Start with the first gallery on your right and stay there for a good long while, bathed in the pinpoints of light streaming from the huge, laser-cut cube in the middle of the gallery. It’s unusual to find yourself enveloped in a piece of art, but that’s the effect of being bathed in the light streaming through the geometric designs etched in the surface of the cube – designs that were familiar to Agha as a young woman, but only from a distance. Growing up in Pakistan, she was excluded from the richly ornamented, males-only sacred mosques adorned with the ornate designs her artwork suggests.
Hers is a shared personal journey, a contemplative transition from exclusion to inclusion. I had to smile when she told me: “I also do paintings – they’re much more personal.” That’s clearly not the intent of the installation at the Mennello. It’s anything but personal in the usual sense of that word. Its serene, embracing, boundary-dissolving power is in leaving you free to entertain thoughts and emotions of your own. The work, as she puts it, “is not about religions, but a contemplation on the nature of boundaries and alienation, and on the power of dialogue to transcend the barriers of gender, race, religion, culture and the natural environment that prevents the true intersections and exchanges between world populations and cultures.” The exhibit is on display until the end of September.