By Nicole Hennessy
As Audra Skuodas explores concepts like the relationship between music and nature or the lifespan of energy, her work becomes more abstract. Years ago, the figures dropped away, leaving her with canvasses comprised of geometric designs and colors.
“Although much of the work has come to reside in the abstract, occasionally the ghost of a female figure recurs, as symbol and metaphor, for me, representative of the violation of universal soul or the brutalization of Mother Earth,” Skuodas wrote. “Even in my earlier work, which was more figuratively representative, the figures were encased within geometric constructs; not as purely mathematical or decorative effect but as embracingly and evocatively symbolic.”
Her volumes upon volumes of pieces seem to stem from the same energy – the evolution of a seashell or a plant or the effect of medicine on the body, are a few concepts, she explains – slow growth and changes unnoticed.
Her artist statement begins, “I seek to reveal moments when invisible phenomena make themselves visible.”
Skuodas’ current show at the Cleveland Artists Foundation is a miniretrospective – Skuodas has too much work to be hung all at once. But she hopes the show serves as a way for people to experience the evolution of her concepts while realizing themes that have always been present.
Born in Lithuania in 1940 and, Skuodas later lived for six years in a displaced persons camp in Germany before coming to the U.S. in 1949. She’s not sure how this shaped the message she’s tried to convey through her work – a message that’s not yet fully formed.
Having suffered a car accident in high school, she still experiences acute amnesia, and forgets entire sections of experiences she’s had in her life.
One of the most devastating portions of her life that was forgotten was her ability to play the piano, organ and clarinet. So, in a way, she paints the emotion music conveys, goes into herself to find what has been there all along, her sensitivity to the world around her coming out visually rather than audibly.
Though most of what she knows about Germany and Lithuania are inherited memories through hearing stories or seeing photographs, sometimes smells take her back to what she assumes must be memories of her time in the displaced persons camp.
Her parents reminded her of her childhood, telling her stories of a 3-year-old who would draw pictures of Joesph Stalin and throw things at it “because he was the oppressor.”
To appreciate abstract art, Skuodas suggests people go into shows without preconceived notions of the images they’re expecting to glance at, moving from one piece to another, deciding if they are good or bad or great or what they mean.
She also believes attendees of art shows or museums should pay attention to their reactions because they are based less on the artist’s message than they are on their own psychology, needs, desires and fears. And she encourages them to take the opportunity to reflect on themselves.
“My working process attempts to arrive at this distillation of energies: reverberations, responses, echoes – the vibrational criteria of effects,” her artist’s statement reads.
“How is energy transmitted? Sensitive chaos, formulating itself into waves, patterns and natures intermeshing. Parallel phenomena: body, spirit. This is the space of my work.”
Audra Skuodas: Evolutions, on display at the Cleveland Artists Foundation gallery located in the Beck Center for the Arts (17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood) through May 11. Call 216-227-9507 for more information