Joseph Brickey is a name that will undoubtedly pop up in future conversations when people get together to discuss local fine art painters they admire.
A classical realist, Brickey has a passion for painting religious subjects, especially Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And the suggestion that his choice of such a limited subject matter could hinder his success in the national art market would be met by the artist's genuine smile and a faint shrug of the shoulders, as if to say, "we'll see."Brickey's BFA final project, "Joseph Smith, the Man," a series of eight oil paintings - some over 72 inches wide - depicting Smith in various stages of his life and calling, will be displayed on the fourth floor of the Harris Fine Arts Building on the BYU campus Aug. 10-27.
"I feel like a painting's not worth doing unless it's religious in a sense, unless it expresses one's convictions and views on life and truth," said Brickey in a recent interview. "So whether or not it's LDS or Christian or about humanity, I want my paintings to express my passion for life and truth."
Discouraged from drawing as a child, Brickey decided to pursue science. "I'd always enjoyed math and chemistry, so when I was a freshman in college I chose chemical engineering as my major."
About a year and a half before he left the country to serve an LDS mission, Brickey's parents bought him some oil paints. "I painted a lot in my spare time and kind of got hooked on it," he said. "I would sit in my chemistry classes and look at my teacher's face and study the lighting on it instead of concentrating on the lectures."
When he returned from his mission, Brickey couldn't leave art alone, so he changed his major. He'd originally taken some fine art courses at BYU, "but didn't feel I was getting the technical aspect of painting. They discouraged realism and really didn't teach it." He found the figure-drawing classes in the Illustration department more beneficial. "However, I'm kind of a black sheep in the program because it's not really geared for fine art painting. But they've been really good to me and let me design my own curriculum."
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Brickey's exhibit is witnessing the growth of the artist's skills. In "April 6, 1830, The Beginning" (oil on canvas, 1996) Brickey's Joseph is nearly a caricature of the ubiquitous paintings or prints of the prophet seen in today's mall galleries and bookstore windows around the city.
However, by "Brother Joseph" (oil on Masonite, 1998), Brickey has managed to create a Joseph that could walk from the confines of the canvas. This is a prophet at rest, pensively considering the words of a book held in hand, a hand that is truly comprised of bone, flesh and blood. It is an impressive work and the result of years of study and research. "I have a plaster copy of Joseph's death mask, and have worked with Shannon Tracy, who's done a lot of research on the skull measurements and the death mask and put them together to make a 3D computer image."
To Brickey's credit, he knows he needs to bring his classical realist style in line with the times. This is one of his goals when next year he attends the New York Academy of Art to pursue a master's degree. Still, he has a lot of passion for the stories in LDS Church history, the Bible and the Book of Mormon. "They've always just sparked my imagination. But I need to depict who I am through my own life and times. I think there's value in that."