Currently on view at Paula Cooper’s West 21st Street space, Meg Webster is currently presenting a selection of new works, continuing her focus on sculptural works that encourage viewer participation while engaging subtly with the space around it. In Chelsea, Webster has injected the pristine gallery with natural elements, fostering a deeper sensory examination of the spatial and relational interactions among viewers and the space they pass through, in turn revealing the always-existing power and beauty of nature through the individual’s relationship with it, and within it.
Upon entering the gallery, one cannot help but be drawn to the apparent pink glow of Solar Grow Room. Webster has transformed this smaller room in the gallery into a thriving ecosystem, with pink overhead lights and an off-grid, solar-powered electrical system. Closer examination reveals that within the four planters are not only various forms of flowers, but also various herbs, spices, and vegetables such as red kale, cayenne pepper, sweet basil, and parsley, an indoor garden in Chelsea that imbues the concrete confines of New York City with a certain nutritional utility. A viewer’s experience in this space forces him or her to question their own relationship with nature and whether or not they should set aside more time to find seek out such environments, while underscoring alternate uses for the gallery space proper.
Contrasting with Solar Grow Room, the larger gallery space presents three distinct works which continue to play on viewers’ participation and presence. To the left of the doorway, Volume for Lying Flat is a compact, but luscious work of damp soil, combined with peat and green mosses. The sharp contrast of the dark soil and bright green moss is explicitly tactile, tempting viewers to kneel beside it and run their hands over it. Typically, moss can only thrive in a damp environment such as wooded areas, or near rivers or streams. It also serves a variety of natural and commercial purposes. Through the abundant damp soil that sits underneath it, this plant continues to grow within the confines of a gallery, adding a certain rustic sheen to the light of the space. It evokes a sense of calm and stillness in the midst of the city, even in its small scale.
Directly across from this bed of moss is Mother Mound Salt. This contained work, comprised of approximately 9,000 pounds of salt in the shape of a half-sphere, symbolizes the earth, and the mineral that it produces. However, like the other works which refer to mother nature, this mound also parallels the curvature of a pregnant belly, as if the production of salt naturally by the earth, and its impact on the nourishment of human civilization, were allowed to speak simultaneously.
Stick Structure sits between these works at the back of the gallery, its grand scale appreciated from afar, while beckoning to the viewer for a closer look, before ultimately absorbing them into its half-circle of twisted sticks and branches. This envelopment allows one to fully experience the intricate weave of fragrant material that makes up this large-scale wreath, a close look at a suspended life cycle that is slowly decaying within the gallery.
Webster’s presentation magnifies the femininity and crucial presence of mother Nature, emphasizing both the beauty and power of nature in its smallest facets. One’s gradual observation, engagement, and interaction with these works raise questions as to the state of the natural world today, and our relationship to it in these suspended environments.
— F. Lo Galbo