Susan Webster is one of the artists chosen to submit work for the Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s (CMCA) Biennial opening Oct. 3 in Portland. This is the second biennial show Webster has been selected for; the first was in 1981 for the All Maine Biennial at the University of Southern Maine.
Webster was among 12 artists invited to participate in Maine College of Art’s Institute of Contemporary Art show, “Darkness in the Light,” exhibited July through September in 2019. Her piece in the show, entitled “Remembrance: Diptych,” is 12’ x 10’ composed of tar paper, paint, thread and rivets; two separate sections, one dark, one light.
“I like the honesty and directness of tar paper. I discovered through folding, manipulating and painting the paper it kind of emanated light in the dark parts – and due to the physicality of the materials. When I was painting with the white and silver it added light, it shone. There was shadow. I thought it was an amazing metaphor about finding love in grief. Arthur died the preceding October … And I was thinking about life passages and sanctuary ... and where we go. About how grief could not exist without love.”
“I wanted it to be a piece of art that was more than that, I was thinking about (my brother) Arthur (Webster) the whole time; about where we go; about the physical body going somewhere we can recall these feelings of emptiness and the mysteries of life … and death. And finding through that grief is love: the light in darkness,” she said.
So where do we go? As Webster’s energy interacted with the materials, she began to think of this piece of art as an attempt to illustrate where our physical body can go to experience spirituality and connectiveness, and contemplate the mysteries of death. And that place, is it a forest, a sunset, synagogue, church, the ocean?
“I had been thinking about and mourning Arthur – I still do – but I wanted the piece to be more than that. I didn’t dedicate it to him because I wanted people to have their own experience (with the diptych).
Webster is now at work on another large scale piece for the Biennial at CMCA this October. The materials for this new work will be the same used in “Remembrance.” But the motivation … the motivation will lean more toward contemporary thoughts; reflect the diversity of spirit, intellect and culture around us all.
“I’m dancing around a lot of different themes – people’s right to live in safe places; equality, domestic violence (Webster is a longtime helpline volunteer for Next Step/Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence); live without fear of abuse; reproductive rights … I don’t want it to settle down on any one political strain … but those are definite themes that I hope will resonate.”
When the show opens Oct. 3, it may be virtual, it may be live, it may be both! What is known is the show has been extended through April 2021. CMCA is open and, as Webster said it is a “huge, huge” place, but many people are just not comfortable being out or being out in a potentially crowded venue.
But one way or another, the Deer Isle resident’s work must be seen, felt and heard and, most likely, no two interpretations will be the same. How’s that for being diverse? And you just might see her siblings June and John there, too.
Check out more of Webster’s work at http://susanwebster.net