Karen Gunderson

JAMES AUER: The Milwaukee Journal: Art: Looking At Art: Gunderson In New York Showing: Sunday April 28, 1991

It would have been more appropriate for Easter, but it’s still not too late to report that Karen Gunderson, reared in Racine and resident in Manhattan is showing her “Lightened Trilogy” – three oil paintings depicting the final hours of Jesus’ ministry – through May 28 at Saint Peter’s Lutheran church, 619 Lexington Ave., New York.

Gunderson, best known for her glowing ‘portraits’ of clouds, has moved into an intense and far from airy, use of the dark side of the spectrum in dealing with the events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.

She has dedicated the trilogy, specially commissioned for showing at the church, to the memory of her late uncle, the Rev. Leroy Andersen, a Lutheran pastor from Pewaukee, Wis., who died in December 1989.  Each painting measures 9 by 7 feet.

“Crucifixion,” done entirely in shades of black, shows Christ’s agony on the cross.  “Resurrection,” in grays and whites, shows him slowly stepping out of his sarcophagus, two sleeping guards at His feet. “Ascension,” also in grays and whites, is backlit, the central figure virtually dissolved in a cloudlike haze.

Gunderson said in a telephone interview that she works, in effect, from the “corporeal” to the “ethereal”.  She first makes a charcoal image on gesso-treated canvas, then paints over the charcoal in oil, following the lines of the drawing so as to create a near-sculptural feeling.

More recently she an epic-scale “Holocaust” image for an ecumenical memorial service held April 15 at Central Synagogue in mid-town Manhattan.  The service, honoring victims of Hitler’s war in Europe, featured both a Jewish cantor and a Lutheran choir.

Gunderson, 48, is married to Julian Weissman, director of Modern European painting at the Hirschl and Adler Gallery.  They have a son, David, 10.