Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Straight from Peaks to NYC

Published in the Portland Phoenix

It startled even her. Becky FitzPatrick, a Portland cut-paper artist, heard through the grapevine that someone from the Ralph Lauren company was trying to get in touch with her. And when the call actually came, she was again startled to learn why the company was calling.

“Most of my work is small 2-D,” she says, including a piece in the just-completed “Body Parts” show at MECA’s June Fitzpatrick Gallery. But the giant clothing-maker wanted to talk about The Wishing Room, her second-ever piece of installation art, which had been shown at the Sacred and Profane festival on Peaks Island last fall.

The piece, assembled with the help of fellow artist Lisa Pixley, involved hanging hundreds of white paper birds from the ceiling of a large space inside the harbor’s former fort. Visitors were invited to walk through and among them. Ralph Lauren wanted something similar.

It turns out that “the wife of one of the windows team members at Ralph Lauren in New York City,” had had her picture taken with her kids in among the birds. When her husband saw the pictures, he wanted to see more, thinking perhaps a similar work would be good for a smaller display in the store.

“They didn’t even know who I was,” FitzPatrick laughs, noting that Sacred and Profane works are installed anonymously. After seeing more of her work and talking to her at some length, the company brought FitzPatrick to New York for a week to put together her first-ever show in the city. She and a windows crew of full-time and freelance Ralph Lauren workers pulled four all-nighters — installing 600 birds above Ralph Lauren-clad mannequins in the store’s four main windows at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 72nd, a block from Central Park, in the heart of the city’s fashion district. It will be on display for the next six weeks. And FitzPatrick — catching up on her sleep — is now back in Maine, hoping to find more installation work.