A Long Island native is among the 23 people selected as 2016 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The fellowship awards of $625,000 — the so-called “genius” grants distributed over five years, no strings attached — were announced on Thursday.
Vincent Fecteau, 47, a sculptor who creates abstract pieces out of simple materials, including papier-mache, was born in Islip and grew up in Port Jefferson Station. He graduated high school from St. Anthony’s in South Huntington and received his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
Interviewed by phone from his home in San Francisco, where he has lived since 1991, Fecteau says his work, which has been seen in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and a few European museums, “ranges from things that people might see as sculpture and some less so. I never know what’s coming next. I work very intuitively.”
Some of his art brings to mind abstract architectural models.
Fecteau didn’t study art per se in high school. “I wasn’t one of those kids who was really good at drawing,” he says. “But I was very involved with the stage crew in school.” He recalls designing and building sets and painting scrims for such productions as “The Miracle Worker.”
Fecteau learned of his award by phone at 7:30 in the morning a few weeks ago. “I didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t pick up,” he recalls. “But they kept calling. I was sort of annoyed.”
He finally picked up.
Fecteau says he has “no idea” why he was selected. “It’s not something I ever, ever imagined,” he says. “But this gives me more time and space to do what I do — and freedom in paying my bills. I hope I make really good use of it.”