SCOTTVILLE — Themes of money, commerce, greed and government are displayed in vivid detail in a recent shadowbox art piece by Mason County Central High School junior Elizabeth Britting.
Britting’s piece, titled “The Octopus,” was meant to be featured as a visual arts entry in this year’s West Michigan Showcase, but due to some lapses in communication and severe weather impacting travel on the day the piece was supposed to be taken to the Frauenthal Center in Muskegon, the piece missed the deadline and wasn’t not eligible for competition.
Art teacher Rachel Brock emphasized that the error was not Britting’s fault.
She lamented the fact that the piece won’t be included in the competition, because Britting is, in Brock’s opinion, one of the rare students who truly “gets it,” grasping and mastering the art of conveying complex themes through visual media.
The piece was inspired by “The Octopus: A Story of California,” by Frank Norris, according to Britting.
She said she read the book in English class a few years ago, and it left an impression on her.
“It’s kind of a commentary on greed and the government and how it kind of overwhelms you,” Britting told the Daily News on Wednesday. “I kind of went into that with this piece, with the money and the octopus being so big, are the things to show that greed overtakes.”
The piece features a layered cluster of coins, buttons and various other embellishments, with an octopus drawn in a pointillism style snaking through the scene and popping its head up under a sign that reads “grand central station.”
“I used the grand central station because in the book, the story revolved around the creation of the railroad, and I thought that was a good thing to add,” Britting said.
The piece took about 15 hours to create, according to Britting.
It’s also accented with repurposed copper wiring Britting collected with her father while “flipping houses.”
The piece as a whole is mounted in a thick wood frame, making its three dimensions pop.
Even though Britting’s piece wasn’t eligible for competition in Showcase, Britting’s glad she made it.
“I really like doing tactile work, and I like any chance I can get to mess around with old stuff,” she said.
Britting said she’s always been interested in art, calling it “more than a hobby.”
It’s something she’d like to pursue throughout her life.
“I can see myself going into a career with some type of design,” she said, adding that she’s looking into attending Lawrence Technological University for its architecture and civil engineering program.
Brock said Britting’s piece was inspired by the work of Joseph Cornwell, an American artist who did a lot of work with shadowboxing.
“She really became intrigued by Joseph Cornwell’s work,” Brock said.
Brock is so enamored of the piece that she asked, in jest, if Britting would sell it to her.
Brock’s not the only one who expressed an interest.
“A couple of people are coming up to me and asking to buy it, and I’m really debating that,” Britting said.
No matter where the piece ends up — mounted to a lucky buyer’s wall, entered in art fairs or kept by the young artist — Britting said she had a great time with how it turned out.
“I’m really glad I made it,” she said.