Pictured, from left:
Materials: Encaustic and oil stick on panel, each 24" in diameter.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, fourth floor, hallway outside patient rooms H4-121 and H4-122.
These two panels by Susan Squires make use of pigment suspended in wax, the encaustic technique, on circular panels large enough to begin to envelop the beholder’s field of vision. The artist also uses oil stick, which can create a resistance to the wax or function on top of or incised into its soft surface. These materials and techniques enable Squires to generate geometric systems of increasing complexity, sometimes emulating abstracted musical patterns or architectural structures, landscapes or traditional symbols. In every work, she aspires to create a quiet, meditative mood with psychological and spiritual implications, a visual poetry that can be perceived as both rational — the geometry underlying some of the compositions — and intuitive, as in the evocative titles of the two works here. She has said that it is less important that we have understood than that we remain open to seeking understanding.
In this circular panel, the artist lets much of the wood grain of the surface rise up visually through the layers of encaustic. The title suggests bounded gardens, and within the grid of triangles and trapezoids created with the oil-stick, we discover one rectangle — the secret garden? — surrounded by a dizzying array of shapes which range in size. In medieval and oriental mysticism, reference to the secret garden could have intellectual, emotional, sexual, and/or poetical dimensions, depending on context and purpose of the work of art. Here again it may be relevant to cite Squires’ interest in “ancient knowing and modern interpretation,” which would invite the beholder to bring her/his individual experience to the task of discovering meaning.
Visual artists often employ circular compositions to suggest cosmic, universal, or global themes, so the format already alerts us to aim high. In this work, the modulated blue-violet ground, permeated by glimmers of orange, could refer to twilight suggested in the title. The artist then arranges a tight grouping of what appears to be the short ends of wooden boards, where we get a glimpse of tree rings and so allusion to the passage of time and the age of some of the component materials of the work. On top of these forms, we find a grid of orange lines and orange-filled interstices that suggest another system of organization, which embraces or is accompanied by five small white circles: Stars? Moons? Planets? The diagonals of the orange grid impart a sense of movement to the composition, which feels balanced even as it has no symmetries. Ambiguity remains, but it is restful and at peace within itself, the waxy textured surface of the panel inviting us to touch it with the mind’s eye …
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
Cleveland native Squires completed the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art and has maintained a vigorous exhibition record, in group and solo shows around Ohio, the U.S., and in Germany and in Italy, where she is represented by a gallery in Rome; her art is also represented by galleries in Akron and Cleveland. You can get a good introduction to her recent work on her website.