I have always made work with an awareness of how materials interact. Paint, paper, brushes, panels and pencils are forces that have a certain physical and emotional effect when they come into contact with each other. What is left is the evidence and acceptance of that experience.
When I began the residency at Dieu Donné, I had a strong interest in antique paper and watermarks, and a real appreciation of the material beauty of paper. I had planned to make watermarks and collages, and cut mylar for paper pulp stencils. Instead, I learned how paper pulp acted in a fundamental way, and am now able to use it with the familiarity and confidence that I would use paint or pencil.
I started working with paper pulp as a painter would, spooning it like jelly on sandwiches and watching how it behaved as I worked with it – dripping, brushing, and generally having fun. We made watermarks and started to manipulate the image with thin pulp applied with an eyedropper or brush. I was beginning to understand the cotton and linen as I would understand other media. I was able to apply that knowledge to the stenciled edition, as well as to the collage pieces.
Through experimentation and discussions with Steve Orlando, we refined an approach to collage. I would pour paper pulp directly on a wet base sheet that was tilted up on one side, and use the result as a stage set for collage. When thin white pulp would slide down a dark blue base sheet, it was like an electric charge – instantly I had a beautiful hill-waterfall-snowpile-mountain-moonscape. I realized that this mark had the exact amount of pressure, contact, transparency and gesture that I wanted. I would then glue down the collages, throw the piece in the press and not see it until days later, when I could discover it all over again. The surface and mark had become one, preserving the resonance of the poured pulp hitting the wet base sheet. The result was a perfect arrangement of material forces, evidence of my experience of making. It was a blessed thing.
I want to thank my marvelous collaborator Steve Orlando, along with Catherine Cox, Kat Savage, Paul Wong and Kathleen Flynn for their tireless efforts and energy over the course of this project, and for making Dieu Donné a wonderful place full of positive and creative energy.
— Chuck Webster, 2009
Chuck Webster received his MFA in painting at the American University in Washington, D.C. in 1996. He currently lives and works in New York City and is represented by ZieherSmith Gallery, New York, NY.