Karen Cusolito Lights Her Artwork on Fire | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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(Scott Hess)

Karen Cusolito Lights Her Artwork on Fire

Meet the artist who burns her creations to amazing effect


Ecstasy by Karen Cusolito
(Scott Hess)

In 1997, while attending the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, Karen Cusolito saw art in an entirely new light. “Fire is always very dramatic and it’s unscripted,” says the Oakland-based sculptor, who unveiled her first flaming creation five years later. Many of Cusolito's early works, including the 30-foot tall sculpture Ecstasy from 2007, feature the human form. "I really, really elongated her neck to enhance the sense of her head being thrown behind her in this sense of ecstasy," says Cusolito.

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