Childhood friends display first collaborative art exhibit

Artwork from Florence natives Maria Britton and Stephanie Imbeau will be on display at FMU’s University Place Gallery from Jan. 11 to Feb. 25.  

The exhibition, called Long View, will include paintings, draperies and collaged works from Britton along with sculptures, sewn paper drawings and videos from Imbeau. While the two women met when they were in preschool and both became professional artists later in life, this is the first time their work has been displayed together, showcasing the similarities and differences of their artistic styles.  

“Spanning painting, sculpture, and textiles, my work explores notions of femininity and feminism, high and low forms of art making, and dreams and disasters,” Britton said in her artist’s statement. “Using combinations of painting and sewing, I modify and disrupt the familiar surfaces of used patterned bed sheets, which I have incorporated into my art for over a decade.” 

Britton said her work is influenced by clothing construction, bodily orifices, curtains, windows, and cycles in nature, making it a “material exploration of the immaterial.”  

Also focused on human feeling, Imbeau’s artistic technique explores the way individuals seek a sense of personal security, belonging and community. Her art is focused on creating protective structures as anthropomorphisms to explore this aspect of human nature.  

Britton received her BFA from Winthrop University and her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before settling down in Carrboro, North Carolina. Her art has been on display in Seattle, Washington along with several states along the East coast, including North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.  

Similar to Britton, Imbeau received her BFA from Ohio State University and her MFA from Newcastle University. Her pieces have been displayed in places all around the world, including London, Germany, France, England, Greece, Norway and Sweden. Imbeau currently resides in Berlin, Germany, where she continues to work as an artist.   

One of Imbeau’s pieces, Shifting Security on Home, consists of sewn-together cardboard panels that come from a wall into the gallery. She said she was inspired to create the piece after traveling around the world.  

“Over time, moving overseas, coming back and forth, learning the reality of being able to take stuff and take it with you made me think much more and focus much more on the individually containable objects you can carry and pack away,” Imbeau said in one interview. 

In order to be considered for the University Place Gallery, artists must submit proposals to a panel of faculty who evaluate the work and determine which ones will be included in the upcoming calendar year.  

Proposals that are currently in the review phase will be considered for the 2023 calendar year,” said Colleen Critcher, University Place Gallery coordinator. “It takes more than a year for professional artists to plan and execute the work for a show at this scale.” 

Though artwork cannot be rushed, Imbeau said she made the last-minute decision to change one of her submissions, so she was still working on her displays three weeks before the gallery opening.  

The two artists took separate paths in life, but they are excited to be working together once again.  

“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,” Imbeau said in an interview with the Morning News. “We’ve done our own things and lived our own lives but these moments of coming back together have been really nice.”