Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 19, 2014
In her latest role, Liddy Fitz-Gerald sees art in “the spaces between things”
Fiber artist Liddy Fitz-Gerald at her Castine home; her artwork is being shown at Gallery B, in Castine, Maine in June 2014.
by Anne Berleant
Daughter. Wife of world-traveling doctor. Mother. Wife of renowned Maine sculptor. Active community member.
Elizabeth “Liddy” Fitz-Gerald, 86 years old, has her first gallery show at Gallery B on Main Street. The opening was June 13.
The experience, she said, was “scary. It sort of took me by surprise.”
Fitz-Gerald’s work—fiber-art hangings, mostly abstract—offers a view into how she sees the world around her.
“It’s what I see if I move that way or I move this way. It’s different every time…It’s the spaces between things.”
Her house on Dyce Head is a showcase for her work and even more for the works of her husband, Clark Fitz-Gerald, who died in 2004—and for many installations of found and made objects. They are everywhere, arranged on walls painted white, on shelves and alcoves, on tables and bureaus.
She points to an array of objects mounted on a wall: shellacked turtle shells fixed to flat pieces of wood, sea shells strung together, thin strips of twisted metal—old African money—arranged in a piece of wood.
“To me, it’s where I live, what I do. I put other people’s work together. None is what I did, except to arrange them.”
The hallway leading upstairs is a display of utilitarian objects transformed into objects d’art by their placement: a cobbler’s mold for shoes, fishing traps, nets, old tools and objects from Bath Iron Works.
Fitzgerald, born August 11, 1927, studied art “before, during and after college. I sort of messed around with it.” However, she was drawn to a different kind of art than the models her parents provided her with, which didn’t move far beyond the paintings of Rembrandt’s era.
“My mother didn’t realize what was going on in my head,” Fitz-Gerald said.
Her father was a doctor and a department head at Massachusetts General Hospital, and her brother and her first husband were doctors. “I got away from that as soon as possible,” she said, marrying Clark Fitz-Gerald, her second husband, in 1975 and moving to Castine.
“If my parents ever knew I married an artist,” she sighed.
However, her perspective, and her collection of objects, widened from accompanying her first husband, whose work took him to Africa, Russia, Australia and Italy. “We went around the world,” she remembered.
Her artistic perspective underwent a change after her marriage to Clark and, with her three children older, she spent more time on her work.
“I think it was [Clark] who opened my mind to see things, their potential. It was a different way of looking at things. It got my head going wild,” she said. “I sort of let loose after bringing up three kids.”
In 1988, she was able to renovate the house and transform an upstairs room into a studio, able to spread out on a big desk, that had been discarded by the Castine High School.
“I think that was really when I began to look at things and think about things,” she said.
A trip to Ireland with “a great group of women from Haystack,” also widened her view. “It had a great influence on me, of putting stuff together, any kind of stuff.”
Despite her decades making art, Fitz-Gerald won’t completely admit that she is, in fact, an artist.
“I was married to one,” she said. “He made a living from it. What I did was just play around.”
For the first time, Fitz-Gerald’s work is for sale, at her show at Gallery B., “which is pretty strange,” she said. “I was supposed to be something else and I didn’t quite make it,” she said.