Artist Val Britton Maps out a Territory of Mind and Space

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Polish-American scholar and semanticist Alfred Korzybski once remarked, “The map is not the territory,” to metaphorically illustrate the difference between belief and reality. Seattle-based artist Val Britton, who has created an installation in the Art Center’s Glass Gallery for The Sheltering Sky exhibition, agrees with that sentiment.

“My work may be map-inspired, but it’s very abstract,” says Val, whose site-specific artwork for the Art Center features hand- and laser-cut paper shapes suspended from the ceiling. “It’s about what is being communicated through the art when people can’t identify figures and objects. I’m using the symbolic language of mapping—it’s not a literal landscape.”

Val says that she has been interested in art since she was old enough to hold a pen, and that her parents encouraged her to draw. She also credits her high school art teacher who inspired her to attend art school and helped her secure a scholarship.

“I was a good draftsman, and did a lot of etching, printmaking, lithography and silkscreen,” she says. “I’m actually one of those people who always wanted to be an artist.”

She says she was always more interested in the “accidents” that occur in the printing process rather than creating a perfectly realized work of art.

“There is a tremendous sense of ‘wonder’ that you get when you pull the print off the press,” she adds. “I feel connected to the level of surprise I get when printmaking.”

Val, received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and her MFA from California College of the Arts, has exhibited at the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara, at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

After driving across the country, Val says she started to connect to a mapping process and engage in more mixed-media art. A desire to create artwork featuring paper cut shapes resembling land masses or map outlines led to site-specific installations, she says.

“I conceptualize these installations and try to visualize how it might be working in the space,” she says. “There are obviously very dominant aspects to my work, like continents, networking, interconnectedness, and synapses. It’s a movement through space.”

Val encourages viewers to walk around her artwork, and even lie underneath it, to gain different perspectives and emotional reactions.

She also has a companion piece of art in the exhibition, a colorful watercolor, ink, graphite, and collage on paper composition titled Celestial Wanderings, which is intended to complement her site-specific installation.

“Collage, drawing, painting, printing, and cutting paper have become my methods for navigating the blurry terrain of memory and imagination,” she says. “I am interested in exploring the tension between chaos and imposed order, the concrete and the imaginary, and the known and unknown.”

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Last Updated: January 22, 2019

Val BrittonGabrielle Haugen