I was born and raised on a dairy farm in the center of Wisconsin. From the time I was little, I have had the privilege of working in gardens. I am connected to the earth when I share the conversation of growth with plants. My room of wonder is open; I can see the unanswered questions: how that plant migrated to a better location, how the other became something different after its 5-year mark. This sense of wonder is at the core of my work and the garden continues to inform my wondering. In Wisconsin my garden has a resident pine snake. It is the keeper of the garden, minding all small rodents and surprising me. The garden is new and different every year.
“Karen Fitzgerald’s paintings transform matter into cosmic revelations.” – Michaël Amy
Over the past 5 years the moon has been a reference point in my work for ideas that seem in-exhaustible. The cycles this orb transits, and the myriad manifestations of its appearances embody the persistence of change, the agitation of energy that we live within. Communicating that within the staid parameters of plasticity seems a fool’s errand, yet for my work, my voice, it is a perfect fit.
For 30 years I have been working exclusively in the tondo form. Roundness is fundamental to my visual thinking. The form is uniquely able to convey an essence of interconnection, wholeness and metaphysical purpose. For as long as I’ve worked on this form, I have felt that it is the right container for what I am saying. The energies within our physical world are interconnected; I elucidate those interconnections through references to phenomena in the natural world. I thin oil paint until it is in a fluid form, build up layers and produce a luminous, subtle, rich surface. The paint is added on top of a gilded surface. The gilded ground, whether copper, silver, 23k, 21k, or 12k gold provides a distinctly “other-worldly” space. It evokes a universal space including our physical plane.
Light suffuses our world – its energy shapes the mood of each day. My use of color as pure light, as physical energy, creates complex shades and tones that reconnect energies present in the everyday world with my own (as well as viewers’) experiences. I use the gilded ground as a cue; just as the artists of the Renaissance used gold leaf to signify spiritual aspects, my use of gold does not hold a decorative intention. I intend that the precious metals indicate something beyond our physical world, something metaphysical.
What is there, what is not there? The edge of “there-ness” and how we perceive nothingness is less than a breath away from belief. The surfaces here also embody a specificity of “there-ness”, and translate very poorly beyond direct perception. This work is dynamic, and spiritual to its core; and no matter how taboo the subject spirituality is in the contemporary art world, I do not despair for my work.
-Karen Fitzgerald, 2019