At first glance, “Pods, an art show with Susan Cook and Karin Geiger” may seem like a well-planned, two-person show: The color palettes are similar and the subject matter is practically identical. The work of each artist complements the other so well that one would be surprised to learn the pairing was completely by chance.
Susan Cook, longtime resident of Ventura and CSUCI first-class graduate, and the German-born Karin Geiger, executive director at Studio Channel Islands Art Center, serendipitously joined forces for the exhibit when a last-minute dropout of one of the original participating artists resulted in the pairing.
Cook’s oil paintings on canvas are renditions of nature scenes. Semi-abstract in nature, her work is a play between form and color. Cook explains, “My paintings are inspired by a devotion to nature and evidence an interest in experimentation with the rhythm of figuration and color. I prefer to work from unostentatious imagery that conveys a sense of reality. My subject matter is in part a reaction to the pressure exerted by an infringing media that we experience every day, the frantic pace of modern life, and also demonstrates a keen interest in the primacy of the painting process.”
What’s exemplary about Cook is the equanimity of her approach. Her artistic footing is stable and consistent. Every painting seems to maintain the perfect equilibrium. Her brushstrokes are conscientiously gestural, her abstract forms are tethered by realistic subject matter, her pale greens and cool blues are held together by an orange underpainting that infuses the work with warmth. Conversely, her reds and oranges are bound by cool hues. Nothing goes overboard, nothing emotes too much, nothing gets out of control.
For example, Lotus 2 and Lotus 3 is a captivating pair on the west wall demonstrating a more deliberate abstraction. The shapes have become a patchwork of color swatches, and realism is only suggested with the flowerlike pod. As a result, Cook has made a beautiful variation of the same theme, creating a striking balance between stillness and dynamism. This equilibrium extends to the rest of the series.
Lotus 2 by Susan Cook
Geiger’s work, on the other hand, is much more whimsical. The composure of Cook’s work is less perceptible in Geiger’s mixed-media pieces. The use of modeling paste, stencils, ink and paint grants her work a more dynamic quality. This is not to suggest that Geiger’s work is a rollercoaster of emotions by any means; both artists manage to maintain an even keel throughout, which is another reason why this show works so well.
In Pods 3, a mixed-media on board art piece, a wash of harmonious colors lends the background on which an exploration of varying reliefs takes place. Geiger incorporates what seems to be the traditional craft of decoupage. She transfers images of nature, leaves, branches and more onto her surfaces. Delicate pen drawings register botanical motifs. The careful line renderings can signal the intention of the artist and are evident of a more intuitive process.
“My latest work reflects how happy I am about having found an exciting new medium and a fresh artistic voice,” says Geiger.
The maxim “slow and steady wins the race” comes to mind when describing this exhibit. “Pods” is not an adrenalin rush nor is it an eye-popping experience. Cook and Geiger don’t compromise with the obligatory frenzy of the times. They steadily arrive at the finish line, with their happily engaged audience in tow — and for that, they win.