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July 4, 2012
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Edwards artist celebrates the light

There's a social experiment Britten likes to do from time to time. On afternoons when she's got a little spare time, the Edwards artist drives up to Beaver Creek.

Sometimes she sits on the bench outside C. Anthony Gallery, where her work is on display, eating an ice cream cone. Other times she sits quietly in the gallery and waits. She watches people's facial expressions as they look at her paintings. She likes to be anonymous in order to get the most honest reaction possible, she said.

"I like to ask people what they think before I tell them," she said. "For me it's fascinating to see the different reactions, which range from tears to laughter, from deep thought to 'that will match my couch.' It confirms we are all having a unique experience and art is just that - a unique experience waiting to happen."

Some people love her work, some people don't. But even when they don't like it, and say as much, she's not offended.

At that point, she's not connected emotionally to the piece like she was back when it lived in her studio, when she was immersed in the many layers that make up one of her paintings.

"The great part about that is it's not personal for me," she said. "Once I'm finished with a piece, the personal connection is gone. I know it's not for everyone. I'm all about authenticity. I want an authentic reaction."

C. Anthony is hosting an exhibit of new work by Britten today and Friday. Don't worry, Britten won't be in the gallery incognito; she will attend a reception each day from 4 to 8 p.m.

Britten's work is most often described with light-oriented adjectives like the ones gallery director Josephine de Lucinges uses: luminous, reflective, illuminating.

To get her trademark effect, Britten uses layers. And lately, she's added a new layer: handmade paper from China, Japan and Italy.

Britten first saw people making paper in Florence, Italy, when she spent a year there studying art some two decades ago, she says.

"Every show we have with Britten she recreates herself," de Lucinges said. "There is a new element added and it seems to emerge spontaneously."

In her studio in Edwards, Britten starts each piece with water-based paint, which organically makes its own pattern, giving the piece its underlying texture and movement.

Next is a layer of gold, silver and copper leaf, applied with an adhesive. After that, she adds the paper, which gives the piece a visual and tactile texture. The final layer is oil paint and resin. In the end, there's around a dozen layers, which is what creates depth in each piece.

As Britten plays with each layer, adding an additional coat or two depending on how the painting is progressing, she often discovers that the earlier characteristics that she might've considered an "accident" are not.

"Those are the things that are the most beautiful things in my painting, the things I'll end up highlighting at the end with oil and resin," she says.

With so many layers in the mix, how does Britten know when a piece is "finished"?

"That's everyone's favorite question to ask me," she says. "I go by feeling. How I create in general is just by intuition and feeling in that moment. There's no other way to explain it. I just know; it's intuitive."

After she puts down the paintbrush for the final time, she stands back, watches and waits.

"I look at the piece as if I'm just the viewer and not the artist," she says. "Then I can see through the layers and listen to the painting and that's when I know the name. They all have a very unique voice."

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 4, 2012 05:59PM Published Jul 4, 2012 05:57PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.