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About Karen Cusolito

Karen studied at Rhode Island School of Design and Massachusetts College of Art. She worked on several public art installations in and around the Boston area before moving to San Francisco in 1996.

Her art has taken many forms, from painting and mixed media to the large-scale steel sculptures she’s presently developing.

Much of her work focuses on humanity and the environment and the delicate balance between the two. Her work has been exhibited locally and around the world, with installations in North Queensland, Australia, and Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Karen is the founder of American Steel Studios, a six-acre space dedicated to providing affordable work space for artists and innovators, and is home to the work space of more than 200 artists.

Karen is a founding member of the Oakland Makers, sits on the advisory board for the Crucible, and is on the Board of the West Oakland Commerce Association. In 2013 she was honored to be the recipient of the Alameda County Arts Leadership Award.

In 2014, she successfully inspired the preservation of 450 tons of steel from the historic Oakland Bay Bridge to be made available to artists for the creation of public and civic art installations throughout the Bay Area. This program is being administered through the Oakland Museum of California.


  • 2018 “Shark” Commissioned by FaceBook for their Menlo Park, CA Campus. This 9’ hanging installation is made from retired computer servers and motherboard panels. The fins and face are sculpted from sheet metal and the dark hooded eyes are polished black obsidian.
  • 2017 “Canopy” Sold to a private collection, Berkeley, CA A sculpture of a female form combined with the form a tree. This is one of three studies for a larger commission. The piece explores humans’ role in the devastation of the rain forest over many decades, and suggests that humans have the ability to restore this critical habitat.
  • 2015 “Seussiqle” On loan to a private collection, Oakland, CA Commissioned in 2008 for the Dumbo Arts Festival, Brooklyn, NY, Seussiqle is a whimsical sculpture that is part flora, part fauna. Seussiqle engages visitors with it’s long outstretched limbs and gramophone horns, inside which dramatic lighting draws people closer. The interior of the sculpture encircles visitors and offers comfort on a wooden park bench built within.
  • 2012 “Ecstasy,” “Mumbatu,” “Manu,” “George,” “Epiphany” and “Passage” Sold to Reserva do Ibitipoca, MG, Brazil. Built between 2005 and 2007, a total of ten 30’ tall sculptures built from salvage steel were created for the “Crude Awakening” installation and performance. Each figure assumes a different posture of worship practiced in various parts of the world. They figures were paying homage to a 100’ tall wooden oil derrick which represented a modern-day house of worship, illustrating our lust for oil and the economic, environmental and cultural impact oil production and consumption has globally. Six of these figures now stand in a rainforest preserve where great efforts are being made to save an endangered species of monkey, and the forest is in it’s fifth decade of reforestation.
  • 2010 “Infinitarium” A botanical garden of enormous proportion, Infinitarium included a towering dandelion, willow trees, trumpet flowers, leaves and whimsical plants. It designed to allow viewers to enjoy a playful scale-reversal with nature. Seats and benches were built into various part of the installation to allow guests to climb in, relax, and see the world from a different perspective.
  • 2007 “Girringun Flame Tree” Commissioned for the Indigenous Land and Sea Project, North Queensland, Australia. This 30’ copper tree is fashioned after a local species that is believed to have healing properties. The indigenous population worked with local government to help heal social and economic disparities, and restore land to the indigenous people. This sculpture was commissioned by the Aboriginal Tribes as a gift to the Australian agencies for taking measures that allowed their community to heal and thrive within their own lands and beyond. The tree features sixteen automated water features and eight flame features.
  • 2019 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV
  • 2019 Autumn Lights Festival, Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
  • 2018 Autumn Lights Festival, Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
  • 2017 Autumn Lights Festival, Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
  • 2015 Symbiosis
  • 2016 Autumn Lights Festival, Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
  • 2015 Autumn Lights Festival, Botanical Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
  • 2015 Treasure Island Music Festival, San Francisco, CA
  • 2015 Filoli Gardens, Woodside, CA
  • 2015 Zener Schon Gallery, Mill Valley, CA
  • 2015 Bottle Rock, Napa Valley, CA
  • 2015 San Francisco Flower Show, San Mateo, CA
  • 2015 Botanical Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
  • 2015 Maker Faire, San Mateo, CA
  • 2015 Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland, CA
  • 2014 Autumn Lights Festival, Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
  • 2014 Game Developers Conference, Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA
  • 2014 Nightlife, Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA
  • 2014 Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland, CA
  • 2013 Autumn Lights Festival, Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
  • 2013 Uptown Art Park, Oakland, CA
  • 2013 Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland, CA
  • 2012 Live Nation, Bay Area Palladium, Sunnyvale, CA
  • 2012 Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland, CA
  • 2011 Earth Dance, Vallejo, CA
  • 2011 Market Street Blooms, U.N. Plaza, San Francisco, CA
  • 2011 Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland, CA
  • 2010 Patricia’s Green, Hayes Valley, San Francisco, CA
  • 2010 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV
  • 2010 Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland, CA
  • 2008 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV
  • 2009 Interim Art Space, Burien, WA
  • 2009 Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland, CA
  • 2008 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV
  • 2006 Pier 14, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA
  • 2006 Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV