My immersive, collaged works on paper draw on the language of maps. Initially, I began this body of work as a way to connect to my father, a long haul cross-country truck driver who died when I was young. Based on road maps, routes my father often traveled, and an invented conglomeration and fragmentation of those passageways, my works on paper help me piece together the past and make up the parts I cannot know.
These mixed media abstractions map not only physical locations but also psychological and emotional spaces. I work 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, 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 makes the pieces human and imperfect.
Using 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. I am exploring this sculptural potential through site-specific installations of paper and string. 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 was born in Livingston, New Jersey and attended Rhode Island School of Design where she received her B.F.A. She earned her M.F.A. from California College of the Arts. A recipient of the Pollack-Krasner Foundation Grant, she has participated in residencies and fellowships such as the Affiliate Program at Headlands Center for the Arts, Recology in San Francisco, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Kala Art Institute, Jentel, and the Ucross Foundation. She has exhibited her work in solo and group shows throughout the nation including recent exhibitions at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Foley Gallery (New York), and Gallery Wendi Norris (San Francisco).
Her work is held in public collections including the New York Public Library, the New-York Historical Society, the Library of Congress, and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts/ Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 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. In 2012 Britton was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission to create a permanent piece for the San Francisco International Airport, which will be completed in 2014. She lives and works in San Francisco.