Mixed Media

Pushing the Artistic Envelope

The genre-bending work of Douglas Fitch

 Vincent McCloskey (left) and William Da Silva (right), puppeteering in “Petrushka.”

Above: Vincent McCloskey (left) and William Da Silva (right), puppeteering in “Petrushka.” Photo: ©2013 Chris Lee

By Lauren Newkirk Maynard

Douglas Fitch as Petrushka

Douglas Fitch as Petrushka

To call Douglas Fitch a theater director, or a visual artist, or a puppeteer—or heck, all of the above—stops far short of the truth. A media polymath, Fitch is a dabbler in and master of many artistic trades, an irrepressible “maker of things,” as he puts it.

On his own and with his New York-based production company, Giants Are Small, Fitch has directed avant-garde theatrical, musical and operatic productions for major arts institutions around the world, including the New York Philharmonic, the National Arts Centre in Canada and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. A puppeteer since age nine, when he joined his family’s touring puppet theater group, Fitch also is a professionally trained chef who has spent more than a decade making experimental, site-specific “feasts” with artist Mimi Oka. In the 1980s he even morphed into an architectural designer, creating several pieces of furniture and designing homes and interiors for those in the know (violinist Joshua Bell, for one). But his signature works remain his theatrical performances: sensory explosions of live theater, film, puppetry, music and visual art.

This past spring, UB was lucky enough to experience his singular talent. Fitch was a guest artist in President Satish Tripathi’s 2014 Signature Series, a new spring tradition launched last year that celebrates the university’s culture of creativity in arts and letters. The series included a gallery exhibit of Fitch’s landscape sculptures and culminated with a public “fireside chat” between the artist and noted art historian Janne Sirén, director of Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Fitch returns to campus in the fall for a year-long artist’s residency, during which he’ll collaborate with performing arts students and faculty on a production to be held Nov. 13 at the Center for the Arts. Puppets may or may not make an appearance.