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A World That Breathes Behind Itself

September 7, 2024 - February 9, 2025

Images from left to right:   May Ling Kopecky Self Portrait - Multiple Sclerosis and My Body, 2022  colored pencil, ink, and graphite on Dura-Lar and graph paper; 71" x 30"  ︎︎︎Image description: The portrait of a woman with brown hair is made of drawings of various parts of her body created using various techniques. Next to each drawing is a description of the portaied symptoms.   Benjamin Merrit Care is, 2020                                                              etching, aquatint, drypoint, sugarlift, spitbite; image 18 x 24”, full sheet 22 x 30”            ︎︎︎Image description: One black and white print, consisting of “care is” written in white on the top half, and a white rectangle on the bottom half. The text is sitting on a dark field of texture and gestural marks, the blank rectangle consists of faint texture.   Kym McDaniel Screenshot from Exit Strategy #1, Exit Strategies Series, 2017-2021  video series; 40:23 min  ︎︎︎Image description: Silver spoons arranged on a table

Ascent (Orbit # 2), 2023. Acrylic on panel, 11 x 10 in.


A World That Breathes Behind Itself 

Melanie Pankau

On View September 7, 2024 - February 9, 2025

Opening Reception Saturday, September 14, 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM


The Rochester Art Center presents a solo exhibition of paintings and etched glass drawings by artist Melanie Pankau.


Pankau’s practice as a painter is guided by her daily meditation practice followed by a process of automatic drawing where the geometric forms and diagrammatic structures in her work unfold. For over a decade she has studied various meditation traditions and techniques and integrates this parallel practice into her paintings that embody and reveal a contemplative consciousness. The crux of her work centers around using the language of abstraction to counter the normative states of self and culture that she experiences as fragmented and individualist. Through the investigations of geometric forms, she strives to create compositions that emanate stillness and a balanced state. The exhibition A World That Breathes Behind Itself features a constellation-like installation of etched glass drawings and geometric abstract paintings providing a contemplative space for quietude and respite.


The etched glass drawings trace the origins of Pankau’s process and the artifacts of her meditation practice. After each daily meditation, she draws in her sketchbook. The drawings are a type of automatic writing in visual form and are the foundational compositions for the paintings. Each drawing is installed at varying heights to draw the viewer’s eye and mind away from linear thought and perceptual patterns. As the overhead lights shine through each piece of glass a shadow of the drawing is reflected on the wall. Metaphorically speaking, it is only when the light illuminates the glass that the image is revealed.


The paintings in the exhibition center around the interlacing of repeated geometric forms. Through the process of making, the woven iterative marks are sanded down to reveal the underlying patterns that sit just below the surface. These veiled lattice-like structures symbolize our innate interconnectedness, reciprocity, and unity. Overall, the compositions become containers for meditative qualities of calm, expansiveness, and our multidimensional nature.


The images in the exhibition are not representations of our outer, physical world, but the experience of an inner landscape that is grounded and quiet, offering an invitation for introspection.


Artist Bio

Pankau received her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1999, her MFA from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 2011, and studied at the Bauhaus Universtät in Weimar, Germany. Her work has been shown in regional and national exhibitions at venues including: Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN; Thomas Barry Fine Arts, Minneapolis, MN; South Bend Regional Museum of Art, South Bend, IN; Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA; Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN; TuckUnder Pavilion, Minneapolis, MN; McCormick Gallery, Chicago, IL and art fairs Art Miami, FL, and EXPO Chicago, IL. She has participated in several artist residency programs including the Vermont Studio Center, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Pankau is a recipient of a Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Community Arts Assistance Program Grant, a Metropolitan Arts Council Next Step Grant, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Her work is represented by McCormick Gallery in Chicago.


Artist Spotlight Tour

Saturday, November 9, 1:00 - 1:45 PM

Dive into the meditative and contemplative world of Melanie Pankau, whose innovative practice as a painter is deeply intertwined with her daily meditation and automatic drawing routines.


Meditation and the Creative Expression Workshop

Sunday, November 10, 2:00 PM

Join us for a transformative 60-minute Creative Meditation Workshop designed to connect the mindful state of being with the creative process. Led by Melanie Pankau, a seasoned practitioner with over a decade of experience in meditation and yoga, this workshop offers a unique blend of meditation and art.


Melanie Pankau is a fiscal year 2024 recipient of a Creative Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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