Two Spaces, One Story: Audra Skuodas Seeks Archetypal Parallels

Oliver Levine, Staff Writer

For 50 years, the visual artist Audra Skuodas has been diligently producing artwork that confronts and connects internal and universal themes. Incredibly prolific and constantly evolving, Audra has built up a body of work that contains dozens of series of drawings and paintings — not to mention an extensive collection of handmade books and collages.

It’s no surprise, then, that an accurate representation of her artistic journey might take up more space than most. This is why, from July 21 until Sept. 12, Skuodas has filled up both the Baron Gallery and Firelands Association for the Visual Arts Gallery spaces with mirroring shows. These “archetypal parallels” serve to highlight specific moments in her career, and denote a certain growth in her work from a very personal place to a more universal and spiritual status. Interestingly, similar themes arise in a shift from figurative works to her more recent paintings, which have become purely geometric abstractions.  

The clarity and purity of Skuoda’s progression is a unique element in her dual shows. It’s fascinating to watch her artistic objectives change and grow over time, building on her previous work and then experiencing a complete breakthrough into a new series. This was the case with the untitled figurative paintings from the late 1970s and early 1980s, which depict figures locked into symbolic geometric configurations. These earlier works combine the figure with elemental themes by placing silhouettes of a woman, or sometimes a man, in a cloud-filled sky or an ocean scene. While there have been few constants in terms of subject matter throughout Skuoda’s career, her figures — with their stringy hands and feet that often intertwine and tangle — consistently appear throughout many of the series. These ghostly figures are a metaphorical embodiment of what she refers to as “the violation of universal soul or the brutalization of Mother Earth” — an idea that occasionally enters her paintings.

As time has passed, Skuodas has shied from painting figures, focusing more on composing the geometric shapes and patterns in which they interacted. This transition in her work took place during the 1990s, and was a move toward a more honest and universal period, one in which she flourished and began to explore the role of humanity within the universe. For Skuodas, a successful piece is one in which a certain balance is achieved — what she calls the “laws of limits,” a balance of tension and attraction.

Paintings titled “Cosmic Distillations,” 2008, andCosmic Connections,” 2000, along with the “Energy Patterns Series,” 2012, are examples of the balance Skuodas is able to achieve through repetition and accurate, carefully executed lines.  On a tangential path, Skuodas has explored the possibilities of collage and, more specifically, the reappropriation of sheet music in her work. This all began in 1994 with her breakthrough, “Broken Melodies Discordant Fragments,” a collage that served to explore the spirituality of music through a visual process. Most recently in the “Heart of the Matter Series,” 2013, her work has featured sheet music cut into teardrops, some painted red.

It is rare that an artist can amass such a large body of work that two simultaneous shows can accurately depict the same exact journey. Skuodas — curious and diligent — is always pushing herself in new directions to search for what it means to feel and experience the world around us. Her books, which are displayed in the Baron Gallery portion of the show, incorporate the Japanese Zen Buddhist idea of satori, which Skuodas defines as “a symbiosis of image and text; the special moment of awareness in which the infinite and the finite become one.”

The closing reception for Skuodas’s show is Sept. 12 from 5 to 7 p.m.