There’s snow falling over MetLife Stadium in Charles Fazzino’s poster for Super Bowl XLVIII — a whimsical touch, says the New Rochelle artist, that has nothing to do with his meteorological skills.
But Fazzino, who’s been creating the official art for the Super Bowl since 2000, is grateful the upcoming game is taking place on turf that’s both beloved and familiar.
“Many cities I’d never been to, or know that well,” he says. “But New York is my home.”
In fact, while he is recognized worldwide as the creative force behind an ever-expanding line of pop art — on subjects that include sports, culture and religion — local fans tend to gravitate toward his pieces that celebrate New York, says Fazzino.
Most of his collection is made up of three-dimensional works, assembled by a crew of up to 50 artists who hand-cut and glue tiny pieces of Fazzino’s original designs — a process that can take up to one year from conception to completion. He creates those originals on a desk at the top of a creaky staircase in the same studio he’s worked in since the late 1980s, and that’s open to the public only once a year, during New Rochelle’s arts celebration known as ArtsFest.
It was Fazzino’s local connection that led to his new sculpture commemorating New Rochelle’s 325th anniversary, unveiled in September at City Hall. Recently he also completed an installation at the American Airlines terminal at JFK Airport that includes a 10-foot sculpture of an airplane decorated in his signature 3-D style.
Currently, Fazzino’s work is on display in museums and art galleries in 20 countries. He is the officially licensed artist for the NFL, the Olympics and Major League Baseball, and has created official art for numerous events, including the Indy 500 and the Grammys. One of his most popular creations is his first interactive piece: a 3-D Monopoly game that features New York as its centerpiece. And last year, “The Fazzino RIDE” — a painted sightseeing bus that took tourists on a theatrical tour of midtown Manhattan — was nominated for a Drama Desk award.
At this level of success, why not move the whole operation to the city — where many of his fans already assume he lives and works?
“I could walk or take a bicycle home to Pelham from here, I have a lot of space, and the main thing is I’m traveling on planes nearly every weekend,” says Fazzino of his decision to stay in New Rochelle, where he is renovating his studio. “I did 50 shows last year, everywhere from Berlin to Osaka, so the last thing I want to do is travel on my days off.”
In Westchester, his exclusive dealer is Washington Square Art Gallery in Rye Brook, where owner Matthew Bayer devotes half his space to Charles Fazzino. He first became acquainted with the artist’s work 25 years ago, when two customers brought in Fazzino pieces to be framed. “After all these years, he still enjoys what he’s doing,” says Bayer. “The quality of his work sets him apart.”
Although success came to Fazzino early in his career, it was his three-dimensional approach that immediately distinguished him from other artists at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Show in Manhattan in 1981. “In the first three hours of the show, I sold all my 3-D pieces and nobody even looked at my flat paintings, and I said, ‘Wow, I’m onto something,’ ” he says. “And here I am today — from not having an art gallery, and not having my work anywhere, to having it everywhere.”
But fame hasn’t gone to Charles Fazzino’s head, says Rihannon Madden, the NFL’s director of consumer products, who has worked closely with the artist for the past 10 years.
“For me, it’s just a natural thing to paint and to draw, and it really hasn’t changed me,” he says. “I don’t allow myself to get jaded.”
In the coming days, Fazzino will mingle with fans at the NFL Shop at Super Bowl, in Macy’s Herald Square, where he will lead an art workshop, sign posters and make appearances with several members of the Giants and the Jets. And he is looking forward to going to MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, glad for another opportunity to be part of football’s grandest event.
As for the actual game being played on Super Bowl Sunday, Fazzino is interested — but it’s a rather recent development.
“I’m not a big sports fan,” he says.