Meet

Fitzhugh Karol

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I grew up in Orford, New Hampshire - very small town - and I have been living in Park Slope, Brooklyn for the past ten years.
What’s the best part of living in Park Slope?
My wife and I landed in Park Slope 11 years ago and we’ve never moved - which is crazy! I love it because we have so many friends there, and we’re right near the park and on an awesome tree-lined block. It’s pretty idyllic in many ways. Close to my Red Hook studio too.
When did you begin your current practice?
I would say that my practice began 17 years ago in college and that it really hasn’t stopped since.
Did you go to art school?
I studied Ceramics at Skidmore College and went onto a year long apprenticeship with ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu. She was a powerful mentor and her influence has been very important in my development. I received my MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Ceramics.
How do you see the influence of studying ceramics in your current practice?
I occasionally work in clay still and I’ve enjoyed how I approach it now having focused elsewhere for years. Ceramics was the initial spark for me and perhaps some of the object-based thinking that came with ceramics and pottery education still resonates with me. Sometimes now I’ll think of an idea I want to achieve and clay will just feel like the best way to achieve it - it’s a very familiar tool in the toolbox.
How do you choose your materials?
If I’m exploring new concepts, material selection arrives in my head as part of the piece that I’m visualizing - then I rush to find the material as quickly and as nearby as possible! It could be cardboard or wire or whatever material is lying about because that’s the fastest way to make a model that day. Or it could be very calculated, like a specific wood type that I want to carve, or very particular thicknesses of steel to construct one of my very large sculptures.
With respect to your wire sculptures versus your wooden sculptures, how did you decide which arrangements would be best suited for each application?
Wood combinations are subtractive mainly, which is a process that I enjoy. The wire sculptures are fun because you can build and reach, thus getting lyrical with ease. I wouldn’t say I decide which arrangements are suited for the method or medium. It’s more what feeling am I trying to achieve at the time and which method will get me there.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?
I’ve always been drawn to stairways and their various shapes and for some reason that shape is almost always in my work somewhere. I also often have a combination of curves that I refer to as a “saddle” which for me goes back to the shape of the hills on the horizon at my childhood home. Other themes are really a mix of playfulness, music, sometimes archeology, and now interactivity is becoming more and more important to me with my large scale public works.
It sounds like your recurring forms typically reference landscape, either manmade or natural, especially in relation to movement through it.
Yes I agree with that. Often I make something and I imagine myself in miniature in and around the piece. And now with my large public art works I get to actually be within the work.
Slant
"I wouldn’t say I decide which arrangements are suited for the method or medium. It’s more what feeling am I trying to achieve at the time and which method will get me there." — Fitzhugh Karol
How did you know sculpture was the right path to pursue?
Growing up I drew landscapes all the time. When I started making things in earnest it was pottery, which quickly turned into ceramic sculptures of landscapes in variety of formats. Something about ceramics and sculpture captivated me and I became obsessed with it. 17 years later and the obsession has flexed into a lot of different materials - it wasn’t really a choice to make sculpture, it’s just what made sense.
Do you find that environment relates to your work?
My surroundings definitely make their way into my work. Sometimes I borrow shapes and silhouettes from the buildings or landscape that I’m working in. I think more often the influence seeps in rather than being intentional.
Slant
"Sometimes I borrow shapes and silhouettes from the buildings or landscape that I’m working in. I think more often the influence seeps in rather than being intentional." — Fitzhugh Karol
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
Tough call, I grew up around a lot of art and the artwork in my home as a child still resonates with me. My Godfather, sculptor Joe Wheelwright, was a big influence and his work and presence was around a lot. When I really got serious about ceramics I was very captivated by the work of Peter Voulkos and then Isamu Noguchi.
What’s next for you?
I’m in the midst of 3 very large scale public works with the New York City Parks Department, one of which is part of a UNIQLO grant program - so that has my focus right now. I’m always working on new directions in the studio, making models and smaller sculptures too.

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