Karen Fitzgerald is an artist who creates striking round images. An established teacher as well as an artist, Karen has broad experience leading classes in libraries, schools and community settings in and around New York City. Karen recently exhibited work at Gallery35 in Manhattan. She discussed her experiences living and working as an artist:
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: How and when did you decide to become an artist?
Karen Fitzgerald (KF): I’ve been an artist all my life. I was interested in it when I was seven and eight years old – in high school my art teacher gave me my own corner and I had studio hours for half the day twice a week. I never looked back.
MM: Growing up, which artists/types of art interested you?
KF: I went to my first museum when I was sixteen. Growing up in a rural area, there was not a lot of “white gallery” art to see. But there were the insides of churches with their statuary and images. We had an art program on Fridays in my parochial school – I still have most of the images we each received. Our mothers made us an accordion folder from old window shades – everyone sewed back then. I saw Picasso, Renoir, Benozzo Gozzoli’s Procession of the Magi. I spent a lot of time looking at these images when I was in grade school.
MM: How would you describe your work and what inspires it?
KF: My work is contemporary: it utilizes aspects of the language traditions of both representational as well as abstract art. All of my work is inspired by the natural world, and especially the subtle, often invisible energies that emanate from and comprise the world we are embedded in.
KF: I’ve exhibited my work from the beginning, including at a high school art fair where I sold a painting created during my “studio time”. When I was younger, just out of my BFA degree, I applied to a lot of things. Later, after my MFA work, I was more selective in what I applied for, and began to present work that I’d completed as a proposal rather than putting myself in a broad, undefined applicant pool. As I matured, I began to curate shows as well. There are so many opportunities to show work these days – at every turn, in every neighborhood!
MM: Do you have a favorite piece? If so, which one and why?
KF: I made a bold painting in 2009 that I am very fond of. It is a simple painting, yet one that is powerful and eloquent. It is called, “I am a Thousand Winds That Blow”. I like this piece because it successfully communicates the idea I wanted it to. It is fresh, spontaneous and powerful. One simple wash on a field of 23k gold. It showed me that if I “let go” when I work, amazing things do happen. It also showed me the value of a playful attitude in creating work.
KF: My style is a pattern of growth that has been with me since I was sixteen. Over the years there were many refinements: from working with watercolor to working in oil. Thinning the medium so it could be as responsive as watercolor; then building a surface as rich and luminous as watercolor was not. From there, moving to the tondo form, almost thirty years ago! Finally, in 2006, I learned gilding techniques and embraced the gilded surface as a painting arena wholly different from anything else I had previously worked on.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your artwork and/or being an artist?
KF: This is a hard question. I do a lot of teaching, which is very rewarding. When I see someone blossoming because of a class they took with me, that is a tremendous reward. It’s harder to parse or to track how people experience your work. When collectors come back to me for second and third, and then, forth, fifth purchases, that is tremendously satisfying. It’s very inspiring.
MM: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become an artist?
KF: This is tough territory. It is not for the meek of heart. You will need to like spending time by yourself. You will need to develop iron-clad work habits, because if you cannot and do not put in the work necessary to develop your voice, everything else will feel worse than a war. Nothing happens overnight. Nothing comes out of the blue. Do something else if at all possible. A writer once quipped to another writer who had overheard a younger writer complaining about not being recognized in some grant/publication/something: “If you choose to write poetry, it’s your own damn fault.” Don’t have any expectations! And always remember that form conserves the energy within a work. If you don’t have form, and don’t know how powerful a container form is, your work will lose its critical energy in a short time and its voice in an even shorter time. Finally, think about the cost of all of this in your immediate emotional sphere. If you have not enabled yourself to work in whatever way, uninhibited by the needs of those around you, you are setting yourself up for a disastrous visit with psychosis.
MM: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
KF: In mid-May, 2017, an exhibit I am curating will debut at the Westbeth Gallery. “In This House of Sky” will include 12 artists, and range between two-dimensional, three-dimensional and installation works. The opening reception falls on May 25th, 2017 from 6-8pm.
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To read more about Karen Fitzgerald, visit her official website.