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Published monthly by Artists of Utah, a non-profit organization   

Brian Kershisnik, photo by Zoe Rodriguez Photography

Artist Profile: Provo & Kanosh
The Art of Gravity
Brian Kershisnik, LIfe and Art

When an artist writes the title of a painting on its front, it’s a safe bet he wants us to pay attention to its meaning, not just its visual impact. In good art, meaning is metaphorical, so a work can support more than one reading. A recent Brian Kershisnik painting, A Child with the Law of Gravity, provides a case in point. A blond toddler in a green dress sits on a black floor, in a variously scribbled blue space. A large arrow, pointing down, emerges from the pattern of blues as a dematerialized presence, floating like a law of nature before the child’s eyes. Perhaps the child is learning to walk and has just taken a tumble, but whatever form the lesson may take, gravity is the perfect example of something no one can explain, even while up-from-down is something we must accept and learn to work with in life.

Brian Kershisnik may have another, richer understanding of gravity. For the first two decades of his life, this youngest of four brothers, with no avocation of becoming an artist, skated over the earth like a skipping stone. His father was a petroleum engineer, and while Brian was born in Oklahoma, but for timing he might have been born in Angola, Thailand, Texas, or Pakistan, the places his family moved through as he grew up. As a formative influence, such a light tread could have made him a certain kind of artist: one who skims the world, sending back visual reports on whatever exotic sights he sees. But by the time Kershisnik started college at the University of Utah, he had felt the pull of gravity, and with it the desire to settle into a thoughtful, deliberate life, which he found on the path laid out for him by his Church. He spent the next two years on an LDS mission to Denmark, then returned to Utah and enrolled at BYU. Growing up, he’d drawn as a way of entertaining himself, but now he began to pursue art in earnest. He studied architecture and ceramics, spent six months in the museums of England, then enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin, where he earned an MFA in printmaking.

Once married, he began a family that eventually included a son and two daughters. They settled in Kanosh, buying a house and another building that still houses his studio. Here the two burgeoning streams of his life began to run in parallel. In one, the family man, husband and father, was a member of a small town community where his labor was counted on when a roof needed replacement or a Sunday school class needed teaching, and where his peculiar vocation was correspondingly tolerated. At the same time, he was a figurative painter whose canvases explored the implications of his faith and his view of reality for someone in his circumstances. His approach included insight, compassion, curiosity, and humor. He became, in essence, a visual poet of domesticity.

Exhibitions Review & Art Professional Spotlight: Salt Lake City
Movement at Mestizo
Introducing Renato Olmedo-González, Sonia Pentz and Nadia Rea Morales

Mestizo Gallery is a small space tucked in a coffee shop of the same name on the northwest side of town. But don’t let its unassuming façade fool you: big things are happening there. Mestizo functions as a primary cultural and artistic center in an area of Salt Lake City where little else of the like currently exists. Ruby Chacon, who is currently being honored as one of Utah’s 15 most influential artists at the Rio Gallery and was a co-founder of Mestizo, had some of her early exhibitions there; and the institute’s new interim director and gallery curator has a lot of ideas for moving forward and making Mestizo a more prominent feature in the Salt Lake art scene. I sat down with him to talk about his background, his ideas, and to have a little discussion about the current exhibit.

Renato Olmedo-González was born in Mexico and lived there for the better part of his young life, making many visits to Salt Lake City to visit his grandmother. When he was 15-years old, he moved here with his mother and siblings following his parents’ divorce. He attended the University of Utah, where he did a double major in Latin American Studies and Art History, graduating just a few months ago at the end of the Fall 2013 semester.  While in school he volunteered with Artes de México en Utah for three years. It was there he met Jorge Rojas, a board member as well as gallery director at Mestizo. Last fall Rojas invited him to curate an exhibit at Mestizo, and this month Olmedo-González  took over his new responsibilities as director and curator of the space —a sure sign of confidence in someone so young and newly graduated.

As an organization, Mestizo hopes to show work that is not only of high quality, but also has the ability to spark a conversation, and Olmedo-González has started to do that in a very literal sense. Under his direction, the gallery hosted its first night of artist presentations for the current exhibit, which gave the artists a chance to provide background on their work, which not only fosters greater conversation about the art, but also improves the impact of the exhibits through understanding. The presentations are an example of the kinds of things Olmedo-González plans to implement that will hopefully foster a sense of community and increase visibility for those represented by Mestizo. While Olmedo-González admits to some trepidation at the prospects presented by his position, he speaks with passion and a level of confidence that shows he is up to the task, and he’s off to a good start.

Installation by Nadia Rea Morales at Mestizo
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