I make art because I am searching for things. I do not approach my easel with an overriding objective to change anything or anyone. Rather I am looking for something. Looking teaches me, and teases thinking out of me, and precipitates internal and external conversation that I believe do me good. My job of course is to paint, and to paint very well, but I have observed that art often accomplishes something quite independently of any artist’s intentions. It is understandably difficult to accomplish things beyond your own intentions and so my way is to walk forward into the work looking for something and being open to finding something else altogether.
My subjects are typically not grand, they are you and me – a little awkward in their common work-a-day holiness. They are often not “getting it”, or perhaps getting it wrong. They are misunderstood, like you and I are misunderstood, but loved and lovely too. They are a little heavy footed in their dancing, a little disheveled in their useful and inscrutable activities, a little disoriented in their best of intentions. The subjects in my paintings are metaphorical and mythological autobiography and when it is working, they are you too.
I admit frankly to the pursuit of truth and beauty. I also admit that the aspects of these principles that draw me in are illusive and difficult to comprehend. I cannot fathom what they are independently, let alone combined. They are not things to be manipulated and controlled by me. I find them often enough to at least keep me at it, and each occurrence has aspects that are unique and unrepeatable. I feel a bit like I’m looking for a home I can’t quite remember – a foreigner trying to fit in an alien circumstance, but truth, love and hope persist and build and remind and change me. Being changed for better or worse is invasive. Building often involves excavation. Life and art require a million coarse and delicate adjustments. Healing involves comfort and crisis, triumph and overthrow, invasion and retreat. It takes discipline and practice to enjoy reality because it is never only limited to the fun parts. Life requires healing which necessitates work and courage. These things do not exclude rest and joy and even fun. If you need surgery, you will want a surgeon who is not afraid to use a saw, but not one who has no other tools.
If my work is to ever be important, it will not be because I was successful in trying to second guess the multitude. It will be because what I found to be authentically important to me, is, or becomes, authentically important to many others. I believe in the importance of beauty, but must acknowledge that it can be both an effective conveyor of truth and also a distraction from it. Perhaps it is linking truth and beauty in their uncountable facets that should be hoped for and sought. This linking is a pursuit, not a location, and artworks that are the proper byproducts of that searching are good for us even when most fall short of the actual fusion. I believe that I have found this truthful beauty to envelope birth and death, union and isolation, victory and defeat, knowledge and bewilderment, pleasure and agony, profundity and silliness, and as I desperately scan the horizon for solutions, I sometimes look down to find them right on my lap.

06078_nativity_medium To purchase the ‘Nativity’ print, please visit www.newvisionart.com

This painting is called “Nativity”. The decision to avoid the definite article illuminates a particularly fascinating and miraculous aspect of Jesus’ advent. Notwithstanding the overwhelming significance of Jesus coming, He came very much like you and I came. His birth was like your birth and mine. He came into our dirt and sweat and blood and milk. He arrived into our hunger and discomfort, just as everyone else on the planet ever has. His birth was, in that sense, unremarkable. It hurt his mother and Him.

It was very likely troubling to Joseph as well (his vexation probably complicated by their displacement from home) and likely not so troubling to the midwives, smiling through the bloody ordeal as midwives do. I know that no midwives are mentioned in the scriptures, but bear in mind that almost none of the details of his birth are mentioned in these holy texts. Even the stable is inferred by the brief mention of an improvised cradle– his being “laid in a manger”. The chance of a young woman having her first child away from her usual residence and not being attended by women (even strangers) seems to me very unlikely. Women would come. They would hear; they would help. I feel sure of it.

In undertaking this sacred subject on such a large scale (the original is 17 feet long) I decided to not look so much for an actual historical reality, but rather to try to fathom an emotional reality to the experience. Virtually all of the visual memory we have of Jesus’ birth has come from centuries of this kind of imagining–the event being so very important, the historical details so very scant.

Perhaps the sheer number of them is a clear indication that I became engaged with the angels. The births of my own children felt so very “attended to” by otherworldly beings. Perhaps they were ancestors and descendants; any who had particular interest in our little nativities. Since none of us would have a chance of salvation without Jesus, it felt obvious that all beings looking to this redemption would take a peculiar interest in this birth. The number of angels in my work kept multiplying. I have counted them several times, but I come up with different numbers. I rather like not knowing exactly.

My original plan to include the conventional beasts was eclipsed by this cloud of witnesses. I did have a bit of room for a dog and her pups. Although no mention is made of any stable occupants, I wanted the animals to be represented and I love dogs. They have long been a symbol of fidelity in western art, so I put them in since Jesus’ coming is the ultimate and most impossible example of keeping the unfathomable promise of His essential condescension. Only the dog can see the glorious river of angels. The mortals depicted, like us, are understandably and rightly distracted with the quotidian tasks at hand.

I believe that the human hunger for dramatic conclusions (to sporting events or books or movies) is linked to our own impossible redemption. Our chances for reconciliation were all but lost when…this happened. Part of our attraction to these dramatic endings is because it is, in part, our story too. He said He would come. Then impossibly and improbably, He did, but not as we would have expected. Certainly the epic drama of redemption is far from over, but the message to me is this: He came. He came. Thank God, He came.

Check out this new short documentary featuring Brian, ‘Advice for Artists: 5 Ideas from Brian Kershisnik‘. It is part of filmmaker Steve Olpin’s series ‘The Talking Fly’ and features some of Brian’s thoughts on developing your own authentic creative voice.

A painting of mine called “She Will Find What Is Lost” has lately been receiving a bit of attention.  This is all fine and good, and indeed the people who are responding to this image are doing so from a large spectrum of extremely varied experiences.  That is an indication to me that I have stumbled into something that is needed.  The circumstances that drove me into this piece are, as usual, particular and personal and not necessarily needed to have a personal reaction and use for this piece yourself.  I have often said that my paintings are a kind of mythological autobiography whether the subjects are men, women, animals, buildings, etc.  It was not, for example, intended as a painting about being a woman, but rather a human.  Humans have gender and for fairly specific, but not exclusive reasons, I chose to paint a woman.  I do believe that in art, very often that which is most personal taps into currents that are most general.  In this way great art of the distant past can continue to inform and illuminate very current issues.  Finding these “big subjects” involves a kind of dumb luck and often has little or nothing to do with an artist’s conscious intention.

The painting “She Will Find What Is Lost” has been used to underline and illustrate a good number of private and public experiences as well as political or social agenda.  This has led to a notion of my endorsing certain views.  Of course, I agree with some of these views, some of these views I am ignorant of, and others I actually disagree with.  Most of the stories I hear are completely consistent with the hopes I retain for the usefulness of this picture which is an extremely and intensely personal sort of usefulness.  I cannot pretend to be able to dictate how people are to feel about my work or the narratives that they will bring to it.  That is in fact anathema to my understanding of how art works and should work.  If I may ask it of you, I ask that you respect that my intention for this piece was to speak to the most intensely private and intimate kind of supernatural interference, influence, and assistance, whatever your particular experience.  I don’t have to agree with you to believe that whatever your gender, circumstance, or issue, many unseen forces are interested in you, love you, and work to influence matters for your profound benefit.  Most of what we all do is resist it, misinterpret it, or mess it up, but my experience indicates that these unseen efforts persist impossibly.  I thank God for that.

On a more temporal level, please be reminded that it is a licensed image and any promotional or commercial use must be done by permission.

Feb 20

Mormon Essay

I am a Mormon.  Warning: The following text contains some religious content as well as invitations to learn more about my church.  You will not be bombarded with proselytizing materials or doctrinal messages from my website, but this essay will just be here and possibly updated periodically.  Please feel free to read it, but obviously you are under no obligation.  So here goes.

Some of you may have seen the short video on YouTube or lds.org about my being a Mormon.  If not, I recommend you see it both for a peek at my notions of the cosmos as well as a look at my studio in Kanosh, Utah.  Whatever your assessment of my cosmos, it is a pretty great studio to be sure.  Better than I deserve, no doubt, but I am glad to have it and use it.  Ethan Vincent was working on a documentary (his own self-motivated and unfunded project, so of course understandably unfinished) when he was commissioned to do several video portraits for the Mormon Church, and this dovetailed nicely with his project that was already underway with me.  The result was satisfying, largely because of the skills and trustworthy intrusions of Ethan Vincent, and I was very pleased to participate.

My intention here is to invite you to know more about the Mormon Church, or as it is officially known, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons” is understandably easier to say) should you be in the least bit curious.

I was raised all over the world and have known and loved many, many people of vastly different religious and secular convictions.  I believe truly in the virtue and holy participation of many of these people in the complex and extremely difficult work of redemption for this world.  My conviction is that my church has a vital and central role to play in the unfolding history of the redemption of this earth and believe it would be silly for people to not engage in it who otherwise would if they had some, or better, information.

There is much good that is accomplished by individuals, and I prize greatly my individual effort to be and do good, to improve my humanity and the condition of those immediately around me.  There are also very important things that are accomplished by the collective effort of groups and organizations.  Group actions and hierarchies often push us into actions and interactions that we might otherwise have avoided, but nevertheless do us and those around us good — often affecting a circle much wider than our own small one.  Both individual and group efforts have their profound advantages and disadvantages and I am convinced that both are needed notwithstanding the failings of each.  My conviction of the truth and importance of my church is firmly linked to rich positive revelatory experience, but also does not ignore the mistakes and awkwardnesses that are infused in any organization involving human beings.  My assurance of God’s interest in my participation in this church does not incline me to require of that experience perfection of action and result, or unmitigated bliss, but of course there needs to be enough satisfaction and bliss, and thank God there is usually more and to spare.

Most people reading this will be at least vaguely aware of the young Mormon men and women going about in pairs looking for people to teach.  Of course these missionaries are very interested in talking to you and of course they want you to join the Mormon Church.  Be patient and tolerant.  They have devoted a few years of their life to this effort and are anxious to engage.  They can also be a good resource for what Mormonism is about.  Interestingly, they are not so much receptacles of vast amounts of information, but they know enough to get you started on your own understanding of the subject — an understanding that will hopefully lead to revelation of your own.  Everybody can guess what the missionaries, or even I, want you to do.  The point is always to find God and get a sense of what He wants you to do.  I recommend and invite you to take a few minutes to widen your understanding enough to include talking to some of these missionaries or visiting mormon.org for information that may prove very useful or at least interesting.  I am happy to field any questions you might have or refer you to resources I find useful.  I will not, without your permission, put anyone else in contact with you.

The world is full of truth and beauty (if indeed those two things can or should be distinguished).  It comes at us from every angle.  It is often unexpected and hard to categorize.  The sources can be sublime or inconvenient and even at times a bit unruly.  I believe the work and message of the Mormon Church to be vital, significant and true.  I am pleased to be a part of it.

brian

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