- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

RACINE, Wis. (AP) - A new book about Karen Gunderson not only gives readers a more in-depth look at the celebrated artist’s work, but great insight into her life - from its beginnings here in Racine to its many successes in New York City and around the world.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Frank, “Karen Gunderson: The Dark World of Light” takes readers on a journey of discovery with the artist as she made her way from performing in musicals on Park High School’s stage to having her innovative artwork exhibited in galleries and museums from New York to Santa Fe and from Spain to Bulgaria, The Journal Times (https://bit.ly/2mBvCwp ) reported.

Included are stories about the many people who influenced the artist and her work, including the “strong, active and capable women” she descended from on both sides of her family here in Wisconsin, and her Lutheran minister uncle, Leroy Andersen, “who was to have a profound influence on his niece’s life.”

A new book about Karen Gunderson not only gives readers a more in-depth look at the celebrated artist’s work, but great insight into her life - from its beginnings here in Racine to its many successes in New York City and around the world.

Here is a sampling of Gunderson’s work.

Born in Racine in 1943 to Deloris and Wilbur Gunderson, Karen has fond memories of growing up here and, in a recent phone interview from her New York City home, she said those early years laid the foundation for her optimistic outlook.

The former Park cheerleader said she loves her hometown and remembers feeling the support of everyone from friends at school to others in the community, and such support gave kids here the confidence to achieve what they set out to do, she said.

“We thought we could accomplish anything,” Gunderson said of her classmates at Park High. “We were really in it together and we felt like we were part of the community.”

Such feelings remain with her today, as Gunderson said she doesn’t often think about the negative side of things.

“I just think about what I want to accomplish and go forward,” she said. “I have a positive feeling about the world, and I know I got that in Racine.”

In the book, Gunderson also talks about her years studying at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (where she began to realize her passion for visual art) and the University of Iowa, and the teachers and fellow artists she worked with there.

There are also chapters about her life and work in New York, since moving there in 1973, including the story of how she met her husband, art dealer Julian Weissman, while playing pool at a bar called Magoo’s.

And while you can get a feeling for Gunderson’s sense of humor and what Frank calls her “sense of fun and play” from the book, much of what readers will find is a detailed understanding of her evolution as an artist - from her cloud paintings to her discovery of the depths of black paint - and her serious beliefs about the importance of art.

Gunderson said she and Frank “sat and talked for over two and half years,” in making this book. “We went through everything,” she said. “We talked about where I came from and how I did this, or that.”

The artist said she was especially appreciative of Frank’s curiosity about how she achieved things in her artwork.

“Typically, people want to know why you do something, but she wanted to know how,” Gunderson said. “And I gave her all the details.”

Describing Frank as a “brilliant” writer, Gunderson said she also likes the fact that the author did not use “art speak” in telling her story. The book is written in a way that everyone can understand, she said - something the artist said she aspires to do with her own work.

“It has always been important to me that my art not be exclusive,” she said. “I like inclusivity and I want to have work people can relate to.”

For those who’ve never had the opportunity to see an exhibition of Gunderson’s artwork, this 252-page, beautifully crafted book - with more than 100 illustrations, many of them full-page images of her paintings - is the next best thing.

Its 12-by-12-inch format allows readers to feel almost as if they are in a gallery. And one section of the book features select works of art, each one photographed from multiple perspectives, to give the viewer the experience of looking at a Gunderson painting.

As Frank explains: “What appear to be patches and intervals of glowing silver in her moons, brambles and royal portraits are solely black pigments in concert with light.”

Gunderson’s connection with Frank came through the book’s publisher, New York’s Abbeville Press, and its owner Robert Abrams. Abrams had purchased Gunderson’s painting of Denmark’s King Christian years ago, and has had it hanging in his home ever since, Gunderson said.

When he approached Weissman with the idea of doing a book about Gunderson’s work, she said she felt honored that they would do a book about her.

“I am so thrilled with this book,” she said.

Gunderson and her husband are in the process of moving from their home in the financial district of Manhattan to a new home in scenic, upstate New York. The artist said she is looking forward to her new studio space there, looking out over the Hudson River. And, in the midst of packing and moving what they’ve accumulated in the last 35 years, she is still working.

She often does commissions of her water paintings, which she said are some of her most successful pieces, and she loves doing them.

Gunderson continues to learn with each work she does, she said, and she wants to do a new series of water paintings in which viewers will be able to see things under the water, as they view the work from different angles.

The artist said she is also excited about the idea of doing more work with lenticular prints, like the one shown on the cover sleeve of the book. Lenticular printing uses lenticular lenses to create three-dimensional effects and the one on the cover sleeve depicts one of Gunderson’s moon paintings, with such effects.

“That’s very exciting for me,” she said. “It’s like a whole new world.”


Information from: The Journal Times, https://www.journaltimes.com

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