Stewardship and the Leak

Brian Kershisnik

All my life I have heard of artistic talent as being a gift.  I, myself, have often referred to such talents as gifts and have been accused of possessing such a gift myself.  So prevalent is the use of this term that I am compelled by sheer consensus to acknowledge that there is truly something to this notion that some people just arrive here with an extraordinary facility or capacity.  The more I am involved with art and the more I contemplate the processes which produce art and the ways which the art of others gains access to me, the more I wonder about the nature of this gift.  Perhaps art is a rend, a hole, a place where a seam in the body or spirit did not quite come together and as a result another pure authentic reality leaks out not necessarily in intentional ways.  Perhaps everyone has these leaks and the artists are the ones who through poetry, dance, story, music or what have you give shape to the issue and substance such that it can be perceived as something more than just a mess that needs mopping or therapy.

I once heard a story reported to be true about a soldier wounded in battle some several centuries ago.  The gash in his abdomen never healed and the physician under whose care he remained for the decade or so of his remaining life learned much about the inner workings of our digestion because he had a window into the gut of this poor fellow.  Thus, this particular and unfortunate defect was put to good use.  I believe that the power of art is derived from what I referred to earlier as another pure authentic reality.  A reality which is concealed for what I trust are good reasons and leaks coming from that world are not necessarily all to be broadcast or celebrated.  Benefit can certainly be derived from such intentioned or unintentional leaks just as in the case of the poor soldier. But only if treated with care.  The same window which provided knowledge to the physician was potentially dangerous even under proper supervision, and thus required incredible and careful stewardship.  I believe that as an artist I should exercise such stewardship.  The invasion to ourselves in creating art as well as the invasions to those who receive the art make it clear to me that the process should be handled with appropriate care, affection, concern and not least virtue.  Even in my pictures which are humorous and whimsical there is an element of danger because they must in some way acknowledge or address the existence of the very center of truth.  In that truth, I have found that there is plenty to laugh about, but not at.  There is plenty of comfort if I can learn how to receive it. There is plenty of joy, but it must have a foundation.  And there is plenty of sorrow, but not despair.

The battles I fight when I paint are intensely personal and their triumphs and defeats are seldom the ones celebrated or mourned by those who receive the art.  It is usually not exactly known why I am so very moved from time to time by something I have received into myself be it film, text, painting, etc.  The artist herself may very well be oblivious to the actual precise source of the chord which now vibrates and causes to vibrate in the recipient that same chord in some unreachable, unremembered or partially recalled chamber.  This exchange though it may contain whimsy and even laughter is in fact very like an ordinance and hence art work should never be displayed thoughtlessly or casually, to say nothing of malevolently.