Art in the Park: Fitzhugh Karol
January 16, 2018
Park visitors may have noticed a few large additions to Prospect Park’s landscape: two colorful steel sculptures inside the Grand Army Plaza and Bartel-Pritchard Square entrances. These abstract and playful shapes are the creation of local artist Fitzhugh Karol, whose works are on view in Prospect Park and Tappen Park in Staten Island through the NYC Parks Art in the Parks program, in collaboration with Prospect Park Alliance We spoke to Karol about his influences, process and having his pieces on display in his own community.
What is your connection with Brooklyn, Prospect Park and Prospect Park Alliance?
I have lived in Park Slope for 11 years and have spent countless hours in Prospect Park, I really regard it as my backyard. It’s the most dynamic park in all the five boroughs because it has the scale, the romance and the variation that no other park does. I’ve just recently connected with Prospect Park Alliance through this project and now intend to support that organization in any way I can, and I love that they have been making a push for public art in the park over the past few years.
What inspires you as an artist and what, specifically, did you draw on in these works?
Interpreting the landscape has always been the strongest force behind my work. I am especially interested in the human imprint on landscape through the ages. The works on view in Prospect Park use arching forms, cutouts and divided spaces to promote playful interaction as viewers move within, around and through them. Searches at Grand Army Plaza was conceived to relate to the Soldier and Sailors Arch. Reaches at Bartel Pritchard entrance was conceived to be even more playful: the reach of the overhanging arm follows the roadway, as if propelling itself counter-clockwise around the park loop, something I’ve done many times on foot.
Tell us about the process for the creation and fabrication of Searches and Reaches.
These works started out as cardboard models—I’m constantly working this way, and as the models pile up I pull out favorites and make them into small sculptures in wood or metal. I then scaled the models up to roughly 20-foot heights. Once we had the shapes scaled, we laid out each massive plane on a grid of steel sheets, drew the shapes and cut them out by hand with a plasma cutter. Each plane then got welded together and we bent and attached the edge banding that gives the sculptures their rigidity.
What aspect of this installation is most exciting to you?
The scale and the locations of these works are the most exciting parts of the project to me. When I conceived of the installation two years ago, I walked around the park and dreamt of how the sculptures might take shape. And now, to have my largest works to date on display in my neighborhood, and to have so much interactivity within my community, is thrilling.