I make immersive, collaged works on paper that draw on the language of maps. The impetus for this body of work was my longing to connect to my father, a truck driver who drove eighteen-wheelers across the country; he died when I was a teenager. Based on road maps of the United States, routes my father often traveled, and an invented conglomeration, mutation, and fragmentation of those passageways, my works on paper help me piece together the past and make up the parts I cannot know.
My mixed media abstractions map not only physical locations but also psychological and emotional spaces. Since my pieces are not planned, I am compelled to put myself in an explorative mode, employing the abstract space of the map to create a pliable structure for intuition, improvisation and chance. Connecting paper fragments together through collage, drawing, painting, staining with salty washes of ink, printing, stitching and cutting paper have become my methods for navigating the blurry terrain of memory and imagination.
Spending time constructing the small parts that accumulate to create a large work, I find a meditative possibility in working with my hands, creating a closeness and depth of value for me. Painting through staining, seepage, and absorption becomes a metaphor for the fluidity of remembering, mimicking the geologic layers that constitute memories. The handmade element of craft allows for the beauty of imperfection. Using hand-cut paper shapes as collage material and cutting into the ground paper of a work brings the drawings into a sculptural space that hovers between two- and three-dimensions. Recently, using recycled materials in an effort to reduce my environmental impact has informed my work in unexpected ways, imbuing it with unknown histories.
An ongoing concern in my studio practice is how to push the language of abstraction in order to create a visceral sense of movement through space and an emotional impact. I am interested in how my work can explore the tension between chaos and imposed order, the concrete and the imaginary, the known and unknown. Traveling, navigating routes, mapping our experiences, making choices at a crossroads, viewing purpose as a destination: these common metaphors link experiencing life with the notion of a journey. In my work I often think about how the retelling of our stories, the reconstruction of our journeys, helps us make sense of the now, and how the retelling is its own journey. Mapping serves as a metaphor for searching, an implication of the unknown in wide, open spaces, and a trace of how we see where we've been.
Val Britton received her B.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design and her M.F.A. from California College of the Arts. Exhibited both nationally and internationally, her work is held in several public collections including the New York Public Library, the New-York Historical Society, the Library of Congress, and the Alameda County Art Collection. Gallery exhibitions include the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Marine Santa Monica, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Kala Art Institute, Headlands Center for the Arts, and Johansson Projects. Museum exhibitions include the San Jose Museum of Art, Katonah Museum of Art, and Nicolaysen Art Museum. Her work has been featured in New American Paintings, Sleek Magazine (Berlin), Invisible City (Melbourne), Artweek, Elephant, and The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography by Katharine Harmon. She has been awarded residencies at the Ucross Foundation, Jentel Artist Residency Program, the Oregon College of Art and Craft, Caldera, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and Recology (formerly San Francisco Recycling & Disposal) and received a Fellowship from Kala Art Institute. Recently the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, she lives and works in San Francisco, California.
All images ©2000-2013 Val Britton. Images hosted by Flickr.