Charles Fazzino may have the coolest job in the NFL. While the Super Bowl is dominated by the action on the field, Fazzino, a renowned 3D pop artist, focuses on capturing that energy in bright colors, glitter and Swarovski crystals.
For almost 20 years, Fazzino has been the official artist of the Super Bowl, designing everything from the official Super Bowl poster to special items requested by the NFL.
“(The NFL) asked me if I wanted to take the reins and do something creative for them. I started with Super Bowl 35 in Tampa,” said Fazzino. Through the 1980s and 1990s, the post had been held by artists such as Peter Max and LeRoy Neiman, creator of “Superbowl XXVIII, Georgia Dome,” a 1994 limited-edition serigraph on paper.
In town for appearances and signings at the Super Bowl LIII Experience and an exhibition at Wentworth Gallery in Phipps Plaza, Fazzino, who is also the officially licensed artist for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, has a long relationship with Atlanta.
He began showing his work in the city in 1996, the year Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics. Fazzino created “Always a Dream, Always Atlanta,” a silkscreen in his signature 3D style with glitter powder, stones and silicone that featured the international flags at Centennial Olympic Park, Underground Atlanta and other local landmarks.
Fazzino, a native New Yorker, grew up in a home filled with art. His father was a shoe designer for Saks Fifth Avenue and his mother was a sculptor. His parents exposed their three children to a wide variety of art, but Fazzino was particularly taken by the pop-up books that his mother loved.
As early as age 16, Fazzino began selling his art. After graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York, he wanted to do something different than other artists. He remembered the pop-up books he had enjoyed as a child and gave it a try. “They were a hit in 1981,” Fazzino said. “When I do flat, people don’t respond to it as much.”
Back then, his wife and a cousin helped him with the labor of hand cutting paper with barber scissors or an X-Acto knife. Fazzino would then glue the paper in elaborate layers to create his 3D designs. “It is like a pop-out children’s book that floats off the paper in layers,” he said, comparing it to a lasagna. Today, at his studio in New York, a staff of 70 help with all the cutting and prepping required for his artwork.
Before becoming the official Super Bowl artist, Fazzino had worked directly with NFL teams and other sports figures and celebrities on commissioned pieces. That first year, the NFL sent him a batch of beat-up helmets and asked him to do something with them, he said. He tried painting them but was underwhelmed with the results until he applied his 3D style and turned them into beautiful works of art.
Creating the Super Bowl posters is a process than can take several months. Fazzino first does a drawing for the NFL to review, then makes any changes, usually based on licensing. This year, because he knows Atlanta so well, Fazzino added all of the landmarks that are well-known in the city to the Super Bowl LIII poster. While every landmark is not identified by name, locals will likely recognize the places they are accustomed to seeing. Posters are two-dimensional drawings printed on paper and start at $25. Fans who want a version of Fazzino’s 3D designs can get a mini print for $175. Fazzino signs and decorates the frames, sometimes adding a favorite team logo.
Next year, his 20-year anniversary as the official artist of the Super Bowl, Fazzino hopes to have a museum exhibition showing the full collection of his Super Bowl posters. Even after so many years, Fazzino said it is still exciting to create them. “Each year it is a different city. It is always interesting because every year it is a different subject,” he said.
Over time, he has also observed among his fans a convergence of sorts. “Die-hard sports fans who have no interest in art become art lovers,” he said. “People really warm up to it. It is a gateway into art, and they don’t realize they are getting into it.”
Autograph session with Charles Fazzino and Atlanta Falcons’ Desmond Trufant
5-6 p.m. Jan. 31. Free. NFL Shop at Super Bowl, Georgia World Congress Center, Hall B (inside Super Bowl Experience, ticket required). 285 Andrew Young International Blvd. NW, Atlanta. nfl.com.
Exhibition of original artwork by Charles Fazzino
5-8 p.m. Feb. 1. Free. Wentworth Gallery, Phipps Plaza, 3500 Peachtree Road NE, E31, Atlanta. 404-233-0903, wentworthgallery.com.