By Brian Kershisnik
Though all my life I have lived and traveled all over the world and hope to continue doing so from time to time, it has been in the isolation of rural Utah that my vision has had a chance to incubate and hatch. I first moved to Utah to attend college and here I discovered my desire and ability to be an artist. Now, in a community filled with births, deaths, marriages, droughts, times of plenty, triumphs, tragedies, indifference and faith, I continue to learn about the hand of God and about being a human being the essence of art.
Art is devotional. In its creation and in its appreciation it reveals the object of our devotion. It defines the religion of the artist and of the patron. This is true from the most so-called "secular" to most overtly "religious" art.
My objective in all of the facets of my life, including art, is to be good, honest, worshipful, virtuous, joyful and full of love. In spite of my common inadequacy, God continues to express an interest in working with me.
My artwork is not so much a visualization of an ideal as it is an exploration of the process that leads to an ideal. The often awkward practicing, the occasional detours and lost ground, as well as the triumph of joy. And then there are those pictures that I love, but for the life of me I cannot figure out. Oh well, I suppose that too is part of the process.
At the risk of seeming simple, I must admit that my artistic objective is to make good pictures. The swirling myriad of form, composition, art history, metaphor, accident, psychology, spirituality, color, content, marks, etc., etc., etc. is far too much for me to harness and direct. I do my best work when I participate with, rather than compel, the enumerable elements that make up art.
The source of much of my work is other artwork, old and new, my own or others. Of course my paintings emerge from my own experience (indeed, from whose experience should they otherwise emerge I wonder?) which includes not only what I know, but what I don't know, the latter being without question the heftier reserve and often the more fruitful source. My gifts or my deficiencies are equally as likely to result in good art when I allow them.
Painting is a holy thing for me. It helps me to see and to feel and to love and to weep and to laugh with God. Sometimes the process is holier than the product and sometimes it is the other way around. I do not say this to suggest that the work should be holy to you or that your response is somehow a gauge of your worthiness. That is obviously your business. It is holy to me.
I believe that I make paintings about being human. They emerge from my love and faith, my fears and awkwardness, from my euphoria and failures together. All of these may be experienced in a single day and hopefully, when I am permitted, are affectionately contained in good pictures.
As I paint, I am myself interested to watch and see who these people are and to consider what they are doing and why. I seek to be more of a participant in the process rather than the creator of it. The purpose of a painting, if I ever discern it, often takes me long after its completion to get a handle on, and is very seldom distillable into a single paragraph if it can be articulated in words at all. At least words that I have access to. I rather think that these are paintings of the memory or anticipation of feelings. I suppose that people who respond to them must recognize the resonance of similar anticipations or memories.
There is a great importance in successfully becoming human -- in coming to fully understand ourselves and others and God. The process is difficult and filled with awkward discoveries and happy encounters, dreadful sorrow and unmitigated joy -- sometimes several at once. The purpose of art is to facilitate this process, rather than simply decorate the journey or worse, distract us from it. It reminds us of what we have forgotten, illuminates what we know, or teaches us unexpected things. Through art we come to feel and understand and love more completely -- we become more human. The artists that I admire, obscure, famous, or anonymous, have contributed to my humanity through their whimsy, their devotion, their tragedy, their bliss, or their quiescence. I seek to be such an artist.
As nearly as I can trace, my paintings emerge from living with people (and my dog) and from affection for the processes I use to make pictures. Although my skills of observation and craft are good, there is a fundamental element which makes a picture succeed that is outside of my control. It is a gift of grace every time it occurs and is always a surprise. This element eludes me every time I try to control it. When a painting succeeds, I have not created it, but rather have participated in it.
I paint because I love and because I love to paint. The better I become at both, the more readily accessed and identified is this grace, and the better will be my contribution.