Location: Nyack, NY, United States
Completion date: 2020
Artwork budget: $80,000
Fitzhugh Karol was one of eight New York State artists selected in 2020 to install artworks along the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge’s bicycle and pedestrian path in Rockland County, NY. His sculpture incorporates steel from both the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge and its predecessor, the Tappan Zee. The use of repurposed steel grounded the piece in its environment and highlighted Karol’s interest in using all available materials and minimizing waste. The piece evokes a sense of uplift, progress and momentum, visually anchoring the beginning of the bridge path in Rockland County.
The goal of this project was to create a sculpture and an experience for viewers that responds to the unique site of the new Mario Cuomo Bridge and the essence of the old Tappan Zee Bridge at the same time. The concept connects the new with the old, just as the bridge connects the two sides of the river. My approach was to take inspiration from the iconic girder shapes and textured reclaimed steel and to combine them to create a sculpture that expresses a sense of uplift, progress and momentum – propelling viewers towards and across the new bridge over the Hudson River. At the same time, the sculpture represents a heavily grounded expression of solidity and visually anchors the beginnings of the bridge’s pedestrian causeway. The three parts of the sculpture are arranged such that the top edges create a continuous line starting at 2 feet above the ground at the easternmost section and ending at 14 feet above the ground atop the westernmost section. Apart from some of the architectural cues to bridge construction, the sculpture is abstract in nature and playful in its expression. It invites viewers to approach and even sit inside the circles if desired.
The first step in the process was getting to know the history of the bridge and the area in a more formal context, beyond what I was familiar with from living in the region. Once it was deemed possible that I would be able to use materials from the old bridges, I laid out what would be available to keep in mind while designing the piece itself. My sculptures begin as paper models, which I create using an X-acto knife and slots, and which allows me to see sculptures three dimensionally before moving to heftier modeling materials, like metal. I then created a small steel model using an approximation of the old bridge materials to get a full understanding of what the piece would look like before getting into its final design and engineering. Once all of that was finalized, the piece went into production and was eventually installed in the summer of 2020.