ArtGallery’s Opening Event Spotlights Norfolk Sculptor
by Teresa Annas
The Virginian-Pilot 12/11/07

NORFOLK, VA – Norfolk sculptor May Britton has been exhibiting her work in clay in this area for about 15 years. A solo show of mostly recent work suggests she is a formidable talent growing in depth.

Her show, called “Dirt,” is the opening event for ArtGallery, which is unlike any other commercial gallery in Hampton Roads. Owner Lorrie Saunders fashioned the concern after metropolitan galleries – white walls; black, exposed ceilings; plenty of space between artworks. It opened Nov. 24.

This is a welcome, sophisticated addition to the local art scene. Saunders will sell art but not framing. She expects to change shows roughly every six weeks and will feature solo and group shows with artists from here and elsewhere. There will be no rear room or wall with a tight cluster of artworks – just the changing shows.

Previously, she ran an art and antiques store on Granby Street.

Britton shows 28 pieces ranging from semiabstract female figures to a wall installation inspired by a tree stump. Nature is the common denominator in this show – not in the sense of landscapes, but in the artist’s homage to nature’s way.

One of her strongest pieces is “Cycle Simulation I,” which she created in 2004 for a show benefiting The Nature Conservancy. Imagine a cracked, red clay floor, 8 by 4 feet, positioned atop a low, black base. The work suggests a dried creek bed out West but could also be taken as a cautionary tale regarding global warming.

Britton made it by rolling out a giant slab then drying it quickly, which she knew would result in many cracks. Her title alludes to how she simulated that natural cycle of drying and cracking. The artist then drew a template, numbering each fragment so she could put it back together after all those individual pieces were fired in the kiln.

The piece has a spare, elegant form, as does much of her work. Britton is of Filipino descent and says her influences include some Asian art.

Britton builds most of her forms using the coil method, which results in surfaces that suggest adobe structures or layers of earth strata. The pieces are inspired by trees, sea shells, arches and canyons.

She has many handsome figures on display. Some of the larger ones suggest truncated, antique statues, recently unearthed. Two pedestals feature a cluster of small-scale female nudes in relaxed poses.

Britton’s figures have been reduced to essential forms with sensual surfaces. She might build a figure out of coils and not entirely smooth that ribbed surface. In one instance, the coils suggest a rib cage.

The only nonclay piece consists of a cascade of locust pods dangling from a copper rod. The pods are not merely tied along a cord; they are wired in a complex pattern that makes the entire structure appear to flutter like a mass of dark birds. The title is “Flock.”