It was gray and drizzly on the afternoon of May 8, yet the interior of the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany glowed with a supernal radiance. It emanated from the gallery walls, which were hung with the lucent installations of Roisin Fitzpatrick, a leading contemporary artist from Ireland. Fitzpatrick was in attendance for the opening reception of her Artist of the Light exhibit, where she conversed with attendees about the inspiration and craftsmanship of her artworks.
Composed of fine crystals hand-sewn on natural silks, the installation’s intricate patterns maximize the reflection and refraction of light. Based on designs found in nature, such as whirlpools, spider webs, raindrops, and meteors, the collection has been praised for evoking a sense of serenity. “It’s a coup for us to have her here,” says IAHM executive director Jeff O’Cleary.
Fitzpatrick and O’Cleary met at a reception at the Irish General Consul’s residence last year. The artist invited the director to see her collection at the Agora Gallery in Chelsea the next day, and the Albany exhibit was planned from there. Irish Examiner publisher Paddy McCarthy, who introduced them, was among the attendees at Wednesday’s reception.
“It’s been great in Ireland,” says Fitzpatrick, “but I knew I had to bring my art to America.”
“I’m humbled by the response it’s received,” she adds, “and I’m delighted to be participating here at the museum.” Among Fitzpatrick’s American collectors are actress Roma Downey, Emmys producer Mark Burnett, and Deepak Chopra. A reviewer for The Washington Post wrote: “when the light hits them just right, these garlands of glass suggest larger, and more primal, things”—an effect that was very much in evidence in the IAHM gallery.
One of Fitzpatrick’s newest designs is based on the prehistoric Newgrange mound-stones monument in Ireland, a site that is famed for how its tomb chambers fill with light every Winter Solstice. Fitzpatrick explains that the 5,000-year-old structure shows that the people in County Meath who built it knew that the earth revolved around the sun.
“I’m very fortunate to be of Irish heritage,” the Dublin native continues, “and my intention with the Newgrange artwork was to bring the wisdom and beauty of this ancient Celtic culture to light.”
Fitzpatrick’s first career was in business and diplomacy—she worked at the UN and the European Bank—but that all changed when she was stricken by an aneurysm. Following a near-death experience, she decided to capture the white light through art, and to guide her craft to evoke peace and harmony.
The exhibit includes a poem Fitzpatrick wrote about her spiritual reverence for the Newgrange site. Another new work is based on IAHM’s Celtic-knot logo, a gift of appreciation from the artist to the Irish American community that will remain in the museum’s permanent collection.
Artist of the Light is at the Irish American Heritage Museum (370 Broadway, Albany) through June 30. For more info, call 427-1916 or visit irishamericanheritagemuseum.org.