To most, industrial materials such as plastic fencing, metal, wood and even rubber are nothing more than elements to be used in construction sites and home improvement. For Joseph (or Joe Fucigna), a local artist in Southwestern Connecticut, these modest materials can be transformed to create elegant, and even provocative forms.
Joe was born in New Rochelle, New York, but grew up in the city of Norwalk, Connecticut where he has become an important member of the local art community as well as a pillar in the Norwalk Community College Arts department. He is not only a full-time Professor of Art but has also been the Chair of the Studio Arts Program since 1993. It is here at Norwalk Community College that Joe shares his artwork with students and faculty alike in order to broaden their understanding of art through play and experimentation.
Being a multimedia artist, Joe works in many different mediums including sculpture, installation pieces and painting. Some of his earlier work is his Rubber Series: 1988-1997. Working with mostly recycled rubber pieces, plastics, metals, and wood, Joe’s pieces pop forward from white gallery walls or hang from ceilings to create some familiar, and yet organic, forms surrounding the viewer.
These materials, not normally seen as sculpture materials and certainly not as elegant, can be subtly or blatantly interpreted in provocative ways. The piece, Twin Missiles, is much more blatantly a representation of human anatomy, whereas some of the untitled works from the series are less obvious in their forms.
In 2018, Joe’s piece Body Bag from his Rubber Series was placed on display at Norwalk Community College as part of a group show entitled ‘Recycle/Repurpose’. This show was to bring awareness to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on Responsible Consumption and Production.
When asked in an interview by Arts Help what he thought of this piece and the show Joe said, “Body Bag…it’s sweet and sour. Kind of goofy, but on the other hand, it’s dark. Something skinned hanging from the wall, or a crucifix, or even something kinky.”
Joe would begin working with fencing material in 2002. One of these first pieces during this time was Blue Pitchers. This piece incorporates both the black construction fencing, but also the colourful fencing that would become a staple material in his more present art pieces.
Later, in 2007, Joe participated in a City-Wide Open Studios event where he was able to share with the public his process of play and experimentation. The installation piece he displayed was one where he used black plastic construction fencing he had begun manipulating and experimenting with in 2002.
In an interview with City-Wide Open Studio, he recalls originally working with the black plastic fencing before discovering the colourful fencing later on. It wasn’t until he was asked to do this installation piece that he began experimenting with the black fencing again. “I came back to this [black construction fencing] because I had to do an installation piece, and I began working with the black netting again and I’m taking a whole new response to it,” he said.
The black plastic fencing or netting that is on display in the installation piece represents puddles, stains and, in some pieces, even decay. Joe wanted to recreate the look of a water stain or mold, “something hidden behind a wall…” as he stated in the earlier interview. He does just that with his piece Day Gone By from 2007 with an unsettling mass of black that is seemingly alive and engulfing the classroom before the viewer’s eyes.
When asked by Arts Help how he had originally started working with the fencing material Joe responded, saying, “You get these ‘Aha!’ moments. I’m always looking around for materials to work with. I want to see what they can do and how they can be handled. I was at my house working with this fine black netting for gardening…I was playing with it and thought, ‘Huh…I like this.’ That was the moment.”
The colourful construction fencing is the main material in Fucigna’s work; he has created over 30 sculptures housed in various galleries across Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. In 2016 Joe’s sculptures were featured in the Plastic Imagination exhibit at the Fitchburg Museum in Massachusetts. Dirty Laundry, pictured above, was one of the pieces featured in this show. It is a piece that incorporates not only plastic and metal fencing but also a common everyday item, a chair. This is another representation of the everyday items that Joe uses to experiment and create his works of art.
In this detailed shot of the sculpture displayed above, Burning Bush, the viewer can clearly see not only the colourful construction fencing but also different coloured zip ties. “I play with different materials and see what they can do. I take it into unexpected places,” Joe explained when asked by Arts Help what it’s like working with unconventional sculpture materials.
The newest addition to the materials that Joe uses has been hoses. After coming to a dead end with a piece, Joe said he was just spending time at home when he “saw the hose sitting there and knew it was right.” He began incorporating the hoses into his newest sculpture collection and mentioned to Arts Help that he is very happy with it right now.
Joe Fucigna has several upcoming events in the Connecticut area. Saturday, June 5th, 2021 is the opening day for Norwalk, Connecticut’s, newest art museum, The Norwalk Art Space, and will feature a group show including some of Joe’s newest Hose Series. Joe is what the Norwalk Art Space is calling a ‘Fellow’ or mentor to new and upcoming local artists.
When asked about this new space, Joe said, “Norwalk Art Space will offer arts to the community and will be here to support under-served artists.” The Norwalk Art Space will be open on June 5th and will be accepting viewers every Wednesday through Sunday. More information about this project can be found here.
Joe Fucigna is working on several other projects including a one-person show in March 2022 at the Norwalk Art Space. Joe will also have a one-person show this coming October at the Housatonic Museum of Art. The show is entitled Drip-Drop, Tick-Tock and features both sculpture and paintings by Joe Fucigna. While this show has been rescheduled once due to a fire and again due to COVID-19, Joe joked with Arts Help that the, “…drip-drop was the fire and the tick-tock was waiting out COVID-19.”