Karen Gunderson was born in Racine, Wisconsin. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Wisconsin State University, Whitewater and both a Master of Arts and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa, Iowa City in painting and intermedia respectively. She has been the subject of numerous one-person shows throughout the United States and in Madrid, Spain and Sophia, Bulgaria. Also had a one person show in the National museum in the capitol of Manama in the kingdom of Bahrain. Gunderson has received many honors and awards, most notably a Lorenzo Magnifico Prize in Painting at the 2001 Florence Biennale, Italy. She has been named by noted critic Donald Kuspit as one of the New Old Masters, and was included in the New Old Masters show at the Abbots Palace in Gdansk, Poland.
Karen Gunderson in her all black paintings conjures vast landscapes through what critic Gerard McCarthy described in Art in America as “a deft working in surface texture alone.” Over the past eighteen years she has perfected a technique whereby pictorial illusions result from white light reflected off the raised edges of varied brushstrokes.
" My black paintings use a process which calls upon our sense of the haptic, or our sense of touch. When I paint an image, the brush follows the interior contours of the form. It is as if I am tracing the surface of the volume of the image with my brush....feeling it in space. The ﬁnal effect produced depends upon the angle of light refraction and the position of the viewer; when you move the picture changes. I believe I have made a new way to think about painting.”