By Mahreen Khan
The Sag Harbor clothing and accessory boutique, Matta, is reopening after more than seven months of devastation. The December 16 fire that ripped through Main Street, taking with it several iconic shops and apartments, is now serving as a precursor to the reconstruction of the damaged buildings.
A formal opening reception at Matta is scheduled for Friday, July 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. and will feature Sag Harbor artist Erica-Lynn Huberty’s site-specific 12-piece installment. Huberty, a fiber artist and North Haven resident, described herself as someone who tends to be “very drawn to possibly solvable problems.” As she watched flames blaze and smoke bellow up and down Main Street last year, she said she was terrified and immediately sensed the weight of the loss. For as long as four months after the fire, she told her children to hold their breath every time they walked past, and to avoid inhaling the pungent fumes coming from the consumed site.
“I was here the day of the fire and had a friend that lost her apartment,” Ms. Huberty said, “so I was sort of already emotionally invested in that area of Main Street.” Instead of dwelling on the destruction, though, she decided to turn a negative situation into one that might provide residents with hope and motivation, through her art.
“It was very depressing over the winter to see these blackened, empty, burned out storefronts and I think everyone was really feeling it,” she said. “I always loved Matta. I have their dresses and I love their fabrics because they generally are the fabrics I’m attracted to.”
And so, Ms. Huberty reached out to the store manager, Theresa di Scianni, to see if she might be permitted to take the fabrics that remained in the shop and use them for a series of works that could be featured in the store’s front window pane.
“We didn’t even know if they were going to open,” Ms. Huberty said. Ms. di Scianni was already familiar with and fond of Ms. Huberty’s work, and appreciated the idea of coloring the storefront with hope.
“One of the first things I asked them was, ‘is there anything left in the shop?’ Did anything survive?” Ms. Huberty said. “And they said, ‘yeah, but it’s all ruined.’ I kind of cajoled them into allowing me into the space and we donned masks and went in there with the insurance guys. The clothing was all burnt and singed or stained. I had a feeling that I could make it viable for the art, so I carted out about two crates of stuff and set up a kind of old fashioned washing station in my studio.”
That was between February and March. Five months later, Matta has been rebuilt and is reopening with Ms. Huberty’s work lining the walls. Her works will be available for purchase on Friday, with 20 percent of proceeds going toward the Sag Harbor Partnership, which is working to buy and rebuild the Sag Harbor Cinema.
As Ms. Huberty explained it, she considers herself a painter who uses multiple modes of fiber and technique to compile historic needle arts. This integration involves drawing, crocheting, embroidering, knitting, sewing and combining textiles, trim and paper – all by hand.
“It was a lot of work to make in a relatively short time,” Ms. Huberty said. “I knew some of the dies would run off and the fabrics would change and alter and be ruined and a lot of them did, but I didn’t care because I wanted that character in the fabric.” Each of the pieces feature intricate artistry and subtle sentiments toward community positivity and unification.
“You know, it’s one thing to put a bunch of really beautiful work in a really beautiful, pristine gallery,” Ms. Huberty said, “but it’s another thing to try and elevate a situation that feels hopeless or needs attention.”
Friday’s opening reception will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at Matta, 82 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call (631) 899-4219.