A few students from the installation class along with Amy took a trip to Salina to attend an artist talk by the current artist in residence at the Salina Arts Center, Andy Webster. A Great Britain native, Webster’s approach to his work was unique and fantastic to learn more about and dive in to.


A liquid solution dispersed by a breath of air (multiple times)

Webster focuses on the relationship between the artist and the material. Instead of controlling the material to create the outcome he wants, Webster lets the material steer him and steer how the work turns out. He doesn’t want to impose an aesthetic but have an aesthetic imposed on him. “How can I have reciprocal dialog with materials where they steer my actions as much as I steer theirs?” he said. He is less worried about the work working and less worried about the formal success.

One piece where he exhibited this question was A liquid solution dispersed by a breath of air (multiple times). He created a tube and blew into it, dispersing liquid solutions to make a variety of flower-like shapes that mirrored the shape of his lungs and he breathed. Even though the only control Webster had was his breath, the solutions responded beautifully.


Several weeks of radio

In Several weeks of radio, Webster used local radio stations over the period of a week to grow sculptures. He fed the radio into and electrochemical device that in turn grew crystal-like forms from the sound waves  The only control he had in these pieces was what radio station he played.

In One gallon of Fal river mud redistributed by foot over 90 minutes + 6 minutes added time, Webster collected a gallon of mud from Fal River and covered a soccer ball with this mud. He then kicked the ball against a large sheet of paper. The ball created what looked like amoebic forms. It was fascinating how this simple action could mimic something so beautiful from nature. Watch the video here. Again, Webster had little control. He didn’t know what shape the ball would make as it hit the paper, nor did he know necessarily where the ball would hit.

Even though, in both of these series Webster had almost no control, the pieces still turned out beautifully. He explored what happens when you let the medium control the piece instead of you controlling the piece. Webster made that point that he had no idea how the works would turn out, but that was okay. If he failed, he failed. If he succeed  he succeeded. His intentions were exploration and process and not necessarily the final outcome.

Crazy tourist

Crazy tourist

Webster has also done larger scale work, most of it being environmentally based. He was commissioned to create an installation that had to be a response to climate change. While walking along Dollis Brook, trying to find inspiration, he found soccer balls instead — tons and tons of soccer balls. For Crazy TouristWebster collected all of these abandoned soccer balls form Dollis Brook and scattered them across the floor of the gallery. It’s fascinating and also disturbing to face the reality that all of those balls were collected from one brook. Webster made the joke that he had already found one basketball in the creek in Salina.


One of his best pieces is A Minor Miracle. Webster wanted to create a minor miracle in Miterdale Forest. So he did that — literally. He cut letters out of wood that spelled out ‘A MINOR MIRACLE’. On these letters, he attached solar LED lights so the letters would light at night after sitting in the sun. Through this, the piece was not just some letters in the middle of a forest, but it was a response to the environment around it. And since the LED lights were cheap, the piece broke down quickly. Even though Webster had this idea and outcome in mind, his work still had a mind of its own and determined the outcome.

Webster will be at the Salina Arts Center until April 16.

All images were used with permission from the artist.