Brian Kershisnik

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Brian Kershisnik
Born 1962 (age 55–56)
Oklahoma City, OK
Nationality United States
Education 1991, M.F.A. Printmaking — The University of Texas at Austin
1988, B.F.A. Painting — Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Brian T. Kershisnik (born 1962)[1] is a Mormon American painter. He has a studio in Kanosh, Utah and lives in Provo, Utah. Instead of working from photos, he prefers to sketch ideas which he transforms into paintings. For a variety of reasons, he works on many paintings simultaneously. Some have described his style as primitive-realist, while his paintings have a dream-like quality that is focused on idealized human figures. His notable works include a portrait of Leslie Norris, Nativity, and She Will Find What Was Lost. Like most creative artists, he sometimes goes through periods of self-doubt as a painter.

Early life and education[edit]

Kershisnik was born the fourth and last son of his family[2] in Oklahoma City in 1962.[1] His father worked as a petroleum geologist, moving internationally with his work. Due to his family's frequent moves, Kershisnik grew up in Luanda, Angola; Bangkok, Thailand, Conroe, Texas, and Islamabad, Pakistan.[3] He spent his childhood summers in Rock Springs, Wyoming, visiting his grandparents.[4]

Kershisnik graduated from high school at the Embassy of the United States, Islamabad. After a year of college at the University of Utah, he served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denmark. He returned to the United States to study art at Brigham Young University, where he switched from studying ceramics and architecture to painting.[2][5][6] He graduated in 1988. During his studies, he received a grant to study in London for six months. He studied printmaking at the University of Texas at Austin and received his MFA in 1991,[1] after which he and his wife and children moved to Kanosh, Utah, where he has a studio.[2] In 2006 he taught at Brigham Young University for a semester.[7] He lives in Provo, Utah and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[8][2]

Process and style[edit]

When Kershisnik paints, he often draws inspiration from his sketchbook. He dislikes the idea of working from photographs for himself, and does not use them as aids in painting. Occasionally he has a model show certain poses.[9] He usually works on fifty to one hundred paintings at a time. Working on multiple paintings simultaneously allows him to start quickly and helps him not get too attached to or anxious about any single painting. He declines formal commissions because he seldom finds inspiration in the artistic needs of others.[7] His paintings often start with a title.[10] He is influenced by Chagall, Degas, Modigliani, Klee, Giotto and the artists who painted in the Lascaux Caves.[11]

Kershisnik is one of the best-known contemporary Mormon artists, and his work relates the mundane to the divine.[12] He has described his own style as "mythological autobiography," or a kind of "emotional self-portrait."[3] His paintings often have whimsical or humorous subjects, and he paints in oil in a primitive-realist style.[13] Geoff Wichert, an art critic and Kershisnik expert, writes that Kershisnik's work deals mainly with the human figure as an ideal. The way his complex figures contrast with their unadorned settings gives his paintings a dreamlike quality.[14] Flying is a common theme.[9] Another way that Kershisnik abstracts his figures is by using the frontal eye on profile figures, as in Egyptian and Cubist paintings. His use of unusually large or small objects and textual inscriptions to heighten the otherworldly sense in his paintings.[4] His works engage in a dialogue with religious ideas, showing human struggles and their consequences.[9] Disheveled Saint depicts a scruffy man wearing a t-shirt, showing Kershisnik's belief that ordinary people can be holy. Burden on Wheels depicts two figures in white pushing a large object on wheels, which is pulled by a dark figure. The painting reflects the Christian idea that humans receive divine assistance.[4]


In 2011, Geoff Wichert criticized some esoteric symbols in Kershisnik's art as "too theologically specific to work as paintings," and later suggested his use of French and Latin titles might be an effort to be less easily accessible.[15] Writing for the Pheonix New Times, Tricia Parker commented that his people are emotionally ambiguous because they are literally two-dimensional, but that this ambiguity makes them relatable. Parker and another have commented on how his women only wear long dresses, which Kershisnik said was because he enjoyed drawing textile patterns.[10][16]

The Provo restaurant Pizzaria 712 displays his work prominently.[17] The collections in Illinois State University and the University of Ohio include some of his works.[13]

Notable works[edit]

Leslie Norris's neighbor asked Kershisnik to do a portrait of Norris. Kershisnik agreed to do it and give the neighbor the first chance to buy or refuse the painting. When the portrait was finished, the neighbor did not want to buy the painting, which Kershisnik then sold to the Utah Arts Council in 1994.[18] Norris himself wanted to buy the painting afterwards, but the painting remains in custody of the Utah Arts Council.[18]

part of Kershisnik's Nativity

Nativity depicts angels witnessing the baby Jesus. Kershisnik painted it in 2006 while he was a visiting professor at BYU. Kershisnik started the 17-foot-long painting to create "something ambitious", after encouraging his students to do the same. The painting shows Mary nursing the baby Jesus, two midwives, an exhausted Joseph, and a dog with her pups underneath a "river of angels." Kershisnik said that his experiences of the births of his own children felt "densely witnessed" and inspired the painting. He also stated that the dog represented faithfulness, which worked well as a symbol in a painting about Christ.[3] Kershisnik stated that he wanted to focus on an emotionally real painting rather than a historically accurate one.[19] Bren Jackson, an art critic, wrote that the midwives exemplify the "mystical fellowship of sisterhood" that Kershisnik observed in his wife and her sisters. In the painting, Joseph is nearby, but separate from Mary and her child, and has an overwhelmed expression. The angels have distinct faces, which according to Jackson, invites viewers to consider what their role in observing the birth could have been.[20]

She Will Find What Was Lost depicts many angels blessing and looking at a woman, who seems to some viewers to be unaware of their presence. It was on the cover of the February 2017 Ensign,[21] and the LDS Conference Center housed the original for 13 months starting in April 2014. The painting is owned by Janae and Cris Baird. Viewers interpret the painting in different ways; some see it as depicting divine revelation and others see it as showing family history.[22] Kershisnik stated that the painting has been used by persons other than him to illustrate what he feels are social and political thoughts that conflict with his intentions, and so asked viewers to respect his intention for the work to represent supernatural benevolence.[23]

Personal life[edit]

In addition to painting, Kershisnik composes and performs songs. He and his friend Steve Vistanuet released the album Tiny Bicycles in 2017.[24] Kershisnik and his neighbor Joseph Adams have been collaborating for over 15 years, as shown in Steve Olpin's short documentary on the subject.Joe and Brian (Documenary). Kanosh, Utah: YouTube. January 2013. 

Asked how he balances work and home life, Kershisnik replied that he makes no claim to such achievement.[7][5] Kershisnik had a son a two daughters with Suzanne.[7] He said that being part of a community and family where others are indifferent to his status as an artist is a grounding experience.[7] Suzanne, a theater group director who has her own creative demands,[6] wrote that Brian was sometimes demanding and insecure in their relationship, writing: "often he is more than I want to carry."[25] The two divorced after their children left home.[14][6] He is married to Faith Kershisnik.[26]


Kershisnik's shows are selected from recently finished paintings. Thematic links between images are deduced afterwards.[7]

Unless otherwise noted, exhibitions on this list were taken from Kershisnik's Curriculum Vita.[1]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • Annually since 1997: Annual Show at Meyer Gallery, Park City, UT
  • Annually since 2005: Annual Show at Ericson Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2007 Brian Kershisnik: Painting from Life, Major Exhibition of Large Works, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2010 Nice Words, Mesa Contemporary Arts, Mesa, AZ
  • 2011 A Man with Dogs, Meyer East Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
  • 2013 Eyes Wide Open, Springville Museum of Art, Springville, UT
  • 2016 Looking for Something, Prince Gallery, Potomac MD
  • 2016 Looking for Something Else, Lazenby Gallery, Belmont MA

Group exhibitions[edit]

  • 2009 Types and Shadows: Intimations of Divinity, BYU Museum of Art, Provo, UT
  • 2010 Cover: Art Defining Music, Estel Gallery, Nashville, TN
  • 2011 Bible, with Fidalis Buehler and Andrew allsteadt, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • 2011 Seek My Face: Recent Artwork on Scriptural Themes, Church History Museum[27]
  • 2012 J. Kirk Richards and Brian Kershisnik, St. George Art Museum, St. George, UT
  • 2012 Drawing Together: Collaborations by Cassandra Barney and Brian Kershisnik, Kayo Gallery, Salt Lake City, UT[28]
  • 2014 Utah's 15: The State's Most Influential Artists, Rio Gallery, Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2015 The Sort of Romantics, Harris Fine Arts Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
  • 2016 Monstalgia, Institute for Humanities Research, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
  • 2017 No Prints without Pressure, Writ & Vision, Provo, UT
  • 2017 Immediate Present, Riverside Church, NYC, NY

Awards and honors[edit]

Unless otherwise noted, the source for the following awards and honors is Kershisnik's CV.[1]

  • 2006 Award of Merit, Museum of Church History and Art
  • 2009 Artist in Residence, Utah Museum of Fine Art
  • 2010 Governor's Mansion Artist Award, Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2011 Art in Embassies Program, US Embassy in Kuwait
  • 2013 Selected as one of the Top 15 Most Influential Artists by "15 Bytes"
  • 2014 Commission for the State of Utah Public Art Program with the University of Utah Virginia Tanner Dance Program and College of Education for two large paintings for the interior of the Beverly Taylor-Sorenson Complex for Dance and Education on the University of Utah Campus
  • 2017 Joined the Advisory Board of the Mormon Arts Center in NYC[29]


  1. ^ a b c d e Kershisnik, Brian. "cv". k e r s h i s n i k. Retrieved 4 December 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d Kershisnick, Brian. "About Brian T. Kershisnik". k e r s h i s n i k. Retrieved 29 November 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Benson, Lee (22 December 2015). "Q and A with Brian Kershisnik, 'Nativity' painter". Retrieved 29 November 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Magleby, Mark (2002). "Willing Suspension: The Paintings of Brian Kershisnik". In Norris, Leslie; Magleby, Mark. Kershisnik: painting from life. Madison, Wis.: Guild Pub. pp. 27–55. ISBN 1893164179. 
  5. ^ a b Strange, Corey (April 2011). "Brian Kershisnik — Mormon Artist". Retrieved 4 December 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c Gangelhoff, Bonnie (31 August 2006). "Brian Kershisnik | Telling Tales - Southwest Art Magazine". Southwest Art Magazine. Retrieved 4 December 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Marcus (28 January 2009). "Artist Brian Kershisnik". Thinking Aloud. 28 minutes in. KBYU-FM. Classical 89. Retrieved 6 December 2017. 
  8. ^ "Brian". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 4 December 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c Wichert, Geoff (2014). "Drawing Quiet Places". In Rossiter, Shawn; Durham, Laura. Utah's 15:The State's Most Influential Artists. Artists of Utah. pp. 9–13. 
  10. ^ a b Parker, Tricia (3 February 2011). "Brian Kershisnik's "NICE WORDS" Relies on You for Meaning". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 11 December 2017. 
  11. ^ Gagon, Dave (15 April 2007). "Kershisniked! Artist Brian Kershisnik's work is on display at Utah Museum of Fine Arts". Retrieved 11 December 2017. 
  12. ^ Givens, Terryl; Barlow, Phillip L. (2015). The Oxford Handbook of Mormonism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199778362. 
  13. ^ a b Carmack, Noel A. (2013). "Mormons and American Popular Art". In Hunter, J. Michael. Mormons and popular culture the global influence of an American phenomenon. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger. p. 99. ISBN 9780313391682. 
  14. ^ a b Wichert, Geoff (March 2014). "Brian Kershisnik". 15 Bytes: Utah's Art Magazine. Artists of Utah. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 4 December 2017. 
  15. ^ Wichert, Geoff (February 2011). "Little Victories: Brian Kershisnik at Meyer Gallery". 15 Bytes. Artists of Utah. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  16. ^ Majors, Anneke (4 August 2010). "That Time Brian Kershisnik Answered My Question". A Motley Vision. Retrieved 11 December 2017. 
  17. ^ Fox, Doug (26 November 2016). "Orem's Pizzeria 712 raises dining to an art form". Daily Herald. Retrieved 11 December 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Durham, Laura (5 November 2003). "If You Don't Buy It, We Will: Brian Kershisnik's Leslie Norris". 15 Bytes. Artists of Utah. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  19. ^ Kershisnik, Brian. "Nativity: an essay". k e r s h i s n i k. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  20. ^ Jackson, Bren (December 2006). "Brian Kershisnik: A More Personal Nativity". 15 Bytes. Artists of Utah. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  21. ^ McRae, Madalyn (28 March 2017). "Utah artist Brian Kershisnik finds joy in discovery through art". Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  22. ^ Stack, Peggy Fletcher (5 April 2014). "Angelic painting reminds Mormon mom she is not alone". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  23. ^ Kershisnik, Brian (28 June 2014). "A general note about "She Will Find What Is Lost"". k e r s h i s n i k. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  24. ^ "Tiny Bicycle Parade – The Music of Brian Kershisnik & Steve Vistaunet". Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  25. ^ Kershisnik, Suzanne (2002). "Living With It". In Norris, Leslie; Magleby, Mark. Kershisnik: Painting from Life. Guild Publishing. ISBN 1893164179. 
  26. ^ Kershisnik, Brian. "bio". k e r s h i s n i k. 
  27. ^ Lloyd, R. Scott (10 March 2011). "LDS Church cuts ribbon on quilt, artwork display". Retrieved 4 December 2017. 
  28. ^ Wichert, Geoff (August 2012). "Brian Kershisnik & Cassandra Barney | Gia Whitlock". 15 Bytes. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  29. ^ "Committee Members". MORMON ARTS CENTER. Mormon Arts Center. Retrieved 4 December 2017. 

External links[edit]