Jundt Exhibition Features Work of Catholic Expressionist Karen Laub-Novak

Artist Karen Laub-Novak in her studio. (Photo courtesy of Jana Novak)

September 06, 2017
SPOKANE, Wash. – The Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University presents a traveling exhibition of works created by Roman Catholic artist Karen Laub-Novak (1937-2009). The display, “Karen Laub-Novak: A Catholic Expressionist in the Age of Vatican II,” will be featured in the museum’s Jundt Galleries from Sept. 9-Jan. 6 (2018).

This exhibition was organized by Gordon L. Fuglie, previously director and head of curatorial affairs at the Central California Museum of Art, with the cooperation of Jana Novak Miller and the Novak family.

This exhibition of Laub-Novak’s works includes about three dozen paintings, drawings, and prints encompassing her entire career, influenced by the Cold War, the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and eventually the postmodern era of the culture wars of the 1990s.

“The Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University is very pleased to be hosting this special, traveling exhibition of Karen Laub-Novak’s Catholicism-inspired works,” said Paul Manoguerra, Ph.D., director and curator at the museum. “The artist’s personal visual dialogue with her own spirituality and religion during the last half of the 20th century resonates with the Jesuit and humanistic tradition here at Gonzaga.”

Laub-Novak, raised in the Midwest, earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1961, and married the Catholic theologian, philosopher and journalist Michael Novak in 1962. She produced two series of artistic works, “The Apocalypse” and “Ash Wednesday,” based upon T. S. Eliot’s poetry and rooted in her time spent in Rome while her husband covered the Second Vatican Council reform movement as a journalist.

In the 1980s, Laub-Novak taught art in Washington, D.C., and her studio work became increasingly responsive to the Bible and religious literature. She developed a profound interest in Rainer Maria Rilke’s epic poem cycle, “The Duino Elegies,” and used the text as the basis for numerous images.

In addition to these works, the exhibition includes existential figurative imagery based upon the books of Genesis and Exodus. Her sketchbooks reveal a strong interest in anatomy and the structure of the human form.

Referencing her ongoing artistic use of figurative expressionism, Fuglie states, “This exhibition brings to the fore an artist committed to her vision of narrative figuration during a time it was thought passe by the critical and academic establishment.”

The Jundt Art Museum has produced a free tri-fold brochure, with an introduction by Fuglie and an essay by Katie Kresser, associate professor of art at Seattle Pacific University, for the public thanks to funds provided by the museum’s Carol Albright Publication Endowment Fund and the SPU Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development.

Also, open in the Arcade Gallery is “From the Collection: Prints from the 19th Century,” a selection of etchings, engravings, lithographs and other works on paper from the Jundt’s Permanent Collection. All of the works in this display were created by European or American artists during the 19th century. The featured artists include Honoré-Victorin Daumier, Eugène Delacroix, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Winslow Homer, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

Manoguerra also chose the works for use in teaching and research by students in the class “Art in the 19th Century” this semester at Gonzaga. The exhibition runs through Jan. 6 (2018).

The museum’s exhibitions and events are free and open to the public from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday; closed Sundays and university holidays. For more information call (509) 313-6843 or visit www.gonzaga.edu/jundt. To arrange a docent guided tour, please call Karen Kaiser, curator of education, at (509) 313-6613.