Karen Gunderson

GERRIT HENRY: Art News: Karen Gunderson: Fischbach: September 1984

Gunderson is a rather remarkable painter, both for what she does and for what she does not do. What she does is paint clouds, with no skyscrapers or planes or gulls in sight. In New Morning (1983), for example, there are endless depths of blue and white cloud formations fading into a blue horizon. What she does not do is cheapen the subject in any way; clouds are her landscape, as strong a subject for this painter as Southampton was for Fairfield Porter. In fact, there seems to be some influence from the Painterly realist. Another reference point might be Tiepolo.

Still, this is a modern view of clouds: the angelic host and God the Father do not appear, now that science has ruled them out of the heavens. Yet we are still in somewhat celestial territory. The vantage point is not earth-we are, instead, in mid air, up among the clouds. In And the Next (1983), cloud band and single cloud, shadowed exquisitely by the sun, float against a dark blue sky, and we float before them. In Circling Depths of Clouds (1980), we have a view of ridges of blue and deeper blue and white puffs that surround an enormous funnel into which all of the clouds may soon disappear, Heavens (1982) captures a brilliantly sunny day close up, with clods reflecting rather than blocking the sunlight. In Great Norwegian Sky Fall (1983), the clouds rise vertically somehow and admit a rivulet of blue sky.

Gunderson often establishes impossible vantage points, but she is so earnest-and skillful-in the way she conducts her clouds over the canvas that we willingly happily suspend disbelief. Her paintings encourage freedom of the imagination-a quality that may well qualify her for future stardom.