"At the risk of seeming simple, I must admit my artistic objective is to make good pictures." Brian Kershisnik, from "Kershisnik: Painting from Life."
Brian Kershisnik is a wily marshmallow dancing over the coals of contemporary art he will brown, but he will not burn; he wants nothing to do with today's fashionably coarse, nihilistic art.
Kershisnik instead chooses to create works depicting the often-wry moments in human relations through virtuoso painting technique, vivid imagination and an unending supply of innocence.
For those not familiar with Kershisnik's art, GUILD Publishing of Madison, Wis., offers a new monograph of exceptional quality, "Kershisnik: Painting from Life." With more than 100 full-color and true-to-original-painting reproductions, the book includes three essays and offers a rare peek into the artist's studio, working style and personality.
In the introduction, Jacquelyn Mitchard, syndicated columnist and author of "The Deep End of the Ocean," discusses her favorite paintings by the artist, who lives with his wife and three children in the small town of Kanosh. And while providing insight into Kershisnik's themes, Mitchard also offers a provocative caveat:
"These pictures are not to be matched to the sofa or to the bedspread." Mitchard says lovers of pastel cupids and sunset watercolors should shun Kershisnik's art. "They are not, as a mountain is not, pretty, and yet they are, as a mountain is, beautiful."
Leslie Norris, short-story writer and Poet-in-Residence at Brigham Young University, concentrates his writing on Kershisnik's creative process and his physical studio space. Norris' descriptions of his visits to the artist's working area are replete with entertaining details.
On one occasion, referring to the art spread all about the studio, he writes: "I was astonished by the number of pieces. When I asked how many were in progress, Kershisnik turned about, stroked his chin and looked at the colored walls. 'Over 70,' he said."
The photographs (by John Snyder) of Kershisnik at work are as informative as Norris' text; readers see the artist sketching and painting, surrounded by a vast studio filled with the eclectic paraphernalia of a hungry, creative mind.
BYU art historian Mark Magleby delves into the mind and heart of Kershisnik, describing and explaining the meaning of myriad works. He writes: "The paintings of Brian Kershisnik offer insight into a personal space echoing our own experience, a landscape where life's vicissitudes sometimes delay our well-meaning ambitions."
Many readers will find Kershisnik's own words, in "Portfolio: The Artist's Voice," enlightening as well as informative. Indeed, he writes the same way he paints:
"Painting is a holy thing to me. It helps me to see and feel, to love, and to weep and 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 your business. It is holy to me."
The author's wife, Suzanne, takes up the last two pages of "Kershisnik." It is the best writing in the book. "That essay was unsolicited," Kershisnik told the Deseret News. "Even though my wife is by no means a disinterested party, we thought maybe people would have some problem with credibility with someone's spouse writing about them."
However, after perusing her words, Kershisnik requested the essay be included in the book:
"He demands my attention for hours of talk, cannot feel my affection, doesn't believe my concern, and it is one, two, four in the morning. He says, sometimes, that he isn't a painter, that everything he made yesterday is trash, and he tells me how badly he needs my comfort and explains what form it should take. Often he is more than I want to carry. I discover we can arrive at events separately, as he operates in a time frame I do not understand. He falls asleep after dinner, guests present, at the homes of people dear to him whom I dislike or don't know. His friends and I regard each other across his comfortably unconscious form. He seldom dreams."
This is the real Kershisnik, the man and the artist, warts and all. It is honest, humorous; not unlike a subject he might paint.