The geometry of the soul: From There to Here, in the Galleries at CSU

Interior Galaxy, encaustic and oil stick on panel by Susan Squires

Interior Galaxy, encaustic and oil stick on panel by Susan Squires

The subtitle of Susan Squires’ exhibit From There to Here: Encaustic Geometric Abstractions is on the one hand a perfectly accurate description of this work. It does consist of abstract shapes and patterns painted in wax.

But the description is nothing like the whole story, and someone who reads that and expects pure, meaningless abstraction which just happens to be rendered in wax would be either disappointed or, more probably, pleasantly surprised. It would be impossible, I think, to see these works as renditions of lines and shapes for their own sake, or as play with perspectives and planes, or simply the possibilities of form. Something more happens between the medium and its content, making more than the sum of those parts, and therein lies their appeal.

Meeting / Con Beatrice, encaustic and oil stick on panel by Susan Squires

Meeting / Con Beatrice, encaustic and oil stick on panel by Susan Squires


The paintings have something in common with Renaissance drawings exploring the geometry of the human body, or the planets, or ideas of natural order: they seem to suggest possibilities, and to explain mysteries of what surrounds us, or to illuminate what the artist has been thinking about.

On the one hand, abstract geometric ideas are inorganic, impossible, inhuman: holding the physical world to abstract standards, or measuring it that way is–as craftsmen charged with realizing the visions of engineers know–a frustrating business. But these abstractions don’t portray perfection or judgement, or proof of anything, but instead possibilities and musing. Any apparent resolutions in these are organic and intuitive. They celebrate the search for ideas, the quest, not the finality. You can read into them architectural ideas, or lines of melody, or elements of ritual . Maybe they are best understood as ritual objects expressing the human quest for order and beauty.

Star / Spin, encaustic and oil stick on panel, by Susan Squires

Star / Spin, encaustic and oil stick on panel, by Susan Squires


Meeting Con Beatrice juxtaposes angular shapes with a circle, the one not quite eclipsing the other, like the shadow of something. Interior Galaxy offers space crowded with spheres, and within the space a large sphere marking out its own territory, whrein still more spheres float, all evoking planets, like ideas within the realm of the artist’s consciousness. The Book of Knowledge unfolds facets like pages that can’t quite close with the efficiency of a book, as if those pages were not simply the vehicle for the ideas, but a part of the message. Illuminated by natural light close to the gallery’s Euclid Avenue window, Star/Spin has the look of one of those five-pointed star-in-a-circle pendants, which over the centuries have meant everything from the five senses to the five wounds of Christ, to the Wiccan five elements (adding Spirit to the traditional Earth, Air, Fire, and Water)–only this is not a complete, tidy five-pointed star but either the wreckage or the beginning of one, spinning into existance or out of control. In all these works that seem to explore ancient mysteries, the layers of wax highlight their place across the ages, preserving and celebrating the quest to understand.

The newest of these works have the brightest color, and evokes city plans neighborhood maps, and mosaic floors, as if to explore the best of what humans do with their abstract ideas, or how they live within them.

Le Brezze d'Estate / Sicilia, encaustic and oil stick on panel by Susan Squires

Le Brezze d’Estate / Sicilia, encaustic and oil stick on panel by Susan Squires


It’s counter-intuitive to describe geometric abstraction as soulful, but that is exactly what these are.

From There to Here is one of four solo shows on view in the Galleries at CSU. Also on exhibit now are :

Riparazioni, a collection of eleven embroidered dresses and other works by Anne Kmieck

Ghosts and Strangers, an exhibit of dyed tencel weavings by Miriam Norris Omura

Paper Shadows, a film by Robert Banks

The Galleries at Cleveland State University
1307 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44115
216.687.2103

January 20 – February 25, 2017

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.


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