“I believe that art is a powerful tool for change,” says activist artist, Karen Fiorito.
Karen Fiorito is an activist artist and curator residing in California. Her artwork has been exhibited internationally and featured in major publications such as Art in America, Hyperallergic, Art Forum, and ArtNews and featured in such books as American Women Artists in Wartime, Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today, and The Design of Dissent. Fiorito has received grants from Change, Inc., the Puffin Foundation, the Pollination Project, A Well Fed World, and LUSH Cosmetics for her public art projects.
How Fiorito Became an Activist Artist
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An early interest in art
She always encouraged me to follow my dreams no matter what.
In high school, Fiorito took a lot of art classes – photography, ceramics, drawing, painting – everything they offered. She wanted to know everything she could about art. One of her art teachers encouraged her to apply to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia before she graduated. she was accepted, and four years later received her B.F.A. in Fine Art/Printmaking.
After graduating, she took some time off of school to travel and develop her artistic practice. Eight years later, she went back to university and got her Master’s Degree. Then she moved to Los Angeles to open her own Printmaking studio and worked for a lot of prestigious artists and institutions. Unfortunately, she had to stop her business due to a severe back injury, and ever since (2013) she has concentrated on her own artworks.
Besides her Great Aunt Frances who ushered her into the world of art, Fiorito mentions several tutors and professors who influenced her growth.
In college, she had many teachers who influenced her, most notably Sarah Van Keuren, Patty Smith, and Lois Johnson. They encouraged her to apply to Arizona State University for her M.F.A. They knew some of the professors there and thought Fiorito would be a good fit due to the political nature of her work. Fiorito applied and received a Regents Scholarship to attend A.S.U. There she met many professors that had a very deep and profound influence on her, most remarkably Kathryn Maxwell, Joseph Segura, and John Risseeuw. “They pushed my art to the next level, technically and conceptually, and I still keep in touch with them all,” she says.
Fiorito’s work has been influenced by many other artists who weren’t her teachers. Specifically, she mentions: Käthe Kollwitz, Hannah Höch, John Heartfield, Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman, and the Guerrilla Gurls, just to name a few. “There are many contemporary vegan women artists who I intensely admire,” she says. These vegan artists include Sue Coe, Jane Lewis, Jane O’Hara, Helen Baker, Chantal Poulin Durocher, Jo Frederiks, and Dana Ellen. And male vegan artists like Hartmut Kiewert, Philip McCulloch-Downs, Roland Straller, and Pascale Salmon. “These vegan artists have really opened my eyes to the importance of veganism, the vegan movement, and vegan art in general,” she says.
Despite the semblance her works pay to the colorful brilliance of pop art, Fiorito considers herself a political artist and activist. However, she acknowledges her artistic variety. “I would say that my style varies,” she says. “Sometimes I am more like a graphic designer and sometimes I am more of a photomontage artist.”
Ongoing activism art projects
Karen currently has a site-specific installation up at the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock in Los Angeles, as well as 10 small billboards around the Center. This installation piece is meant to raise awareness of the increasing risks faced by our planet. The theme of this piece is called “Balancing Act,” a project meant for the “World On Fire” exhibition.
All her recent and ongoing projects encompass the effects of climate change and nature’s exploitation. She endeavors to educate the public on the dangers of endangered animals and vegetation, in hopes of a global change.
Legacy and expectations
“I don’t have children, so my legacy will be my art and activism,” Fiorito says.
She hopes her works will continue to inspire and reorientate the public toward making the safety of the planet a priority.
To see Karen Fiorito’s latest artwork, visit Saatchi Art >
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