By MATTHEW ROBERTSON, Morning News
FLORENCE, SC (AP) — Maria Britton and Stephanie Imbeau have known each other for, well, a while.
“We’ve been friends since we were about 3 years old,” Britton said Friday as she worked on the installation of her exhibit at Francis Marion University’s University Place Gallery.
“We’re going to have to dress up later,” Imbeau said as the two laughed as they took a break from setting up their art. As the two stood side by side, their smiles shone through their masks.
Part of Britton’s job involved her and an assistant using steam engines to remove wrinkles from certain forms of fabric hung on the wall.
“It’s a bunch of recent work, so over the last two years I’ve done a lot of work on old patterned bed sheets. I’ve done a few different works,” Britton said of working with his steamer and his other hand to remove creases.
“It’s called draperies and they just fit over these wooden wall brackets underneath. Those three are drapery and one is soft paint there,” Britton said. “I also brought a small papier-mâché sculpture.”
Britton, who loves to sew, said she started collecting vintage leaves towards the end of college and then incorporated them into her painting.
“Eventually I started to get more into sewing,” she said.
Finds from thrift stores, she says, are cheaper to buy and patterns easier to find than in newer linens. And the story of the sheets comes as a bonus.
“People were living it, dreaming about it. The fabric has memories and creases in it, that’s what we’re trying to figure out now,” she said as she continued to steam.
“I don’t really like interpreting work for others. I like that they interpret the work for themselves,” she said. “I think there’s something about elevating manufacturing methods that are more associated with female labor. To elevate this to a status considered a higher art.
As Britton struggled to remove wrinkles from his art, Imbeau introduced his own.
“Yeah, I take all the wrinkles out of Maria,” Imbeau said as the two laughed.
“I love the kind of flaws inherent in materials like cracks in porcelain, creases in cardboard, wrinkles in plastic or even paper,” Imbeau said. “Just a kind of substance that gives something and winks at the elevation of the fragile or the unrecognized.”
“I’m not necessarily thinking of wrinkles, but cracks in porcelain, that’s for sure. I will follow them and they will dictate the general shape or direction of the piece,” Imbeau said. Beside him was a collection of his porcelain works in shadow boxes.
Imbeau’s large installation is made of cardboard.
“It’s called moving home security,” she said. “All of these boxes you see are individual panels that fit together and fit into five suitcase-sized containers and the quirky aesthetic of this one came from me thinking about adobe villages and growing communities organic from the American Southwest.”
The work consists of cardboard panels sewn together that seem to come out of a wall and curve around and into the gallery.
Imbeau, from Florence who now lives in Berlin, said the idea for the boxes came to him during his travels.
“Over time, moving overseas, coming and going, learning the reality of being able to take things with you and take them with you made me think a lot more and focus a lot more on individually contained items than you can carry and store,” Imbeau said. .
Some of his other works of art are also boxed – in ghost box and not in cardboard box. And this art would be its porcelain pieces.
“I really thought I was going to attach them to the fabric, and it still didn’t work, and eventually I gave in to the shadow boxes. I thought the shadow boxes would end up echoing the cardboard,” Imbeau said.
This decision was made three weeks before the scheduled opening, so on Friday she still had work to do on the final assembly of the ghost boxes.
The lives of the two artists have taken different paths since growing up in Florence. For a time, they both lived in New York, but that eventually changed.
“I have lived in Germany for five years, my parents still live in Florence. It’s really cool to have an exhibition with Maria since we grew up together,” said Imbeau. “We did our own things and lived our own lives, but those times back together were really nice.”
The exhibition runs from January 11 to February 11. 25.
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