Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.

Christmas - Brian Kershisnik: Nativity

Brian Kershisnik: Nativity

The Nativity in Six Point Perspective

by Kim Williams

There is much to ponder in Brian Kershisnik's epically scaled (7’ x 17’) painting Nativity.

There are the attentive midwives, eyes shining with hands perched at the ready for care-giving service. Their presence is a charitable and believable addition to the scene. As Kershisnik explains, “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.”

The inquisitive hound and her pups are the only creatures seemingly privy to the great throng of witnesses. Distinctively different from a stable animal, the artist chose a dog as “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.”

Mary, a mite disheveled but focused intently on the necessary task at hand, is nurturing her newborn. She seems settled and engaged, leaning into her own words, “I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1:38, The Message)

Jesus, so fresh from the womb, is discovering how to breathe and suckle, becoming embodied. He is glistening and not yet a healthy colour. Except for a vaguely shimmering halo (and celestial guests!), he is a babe like every other babe, seeking nourishment and comfort.

Then there is Joseph, the visual center of this reeling narrative work. Joseph holds his head in a mixed expression of relief and disorientation. On a human and divine scale he’s been through a lot! His hand to face gesture – what in the world just happened? – is visceral and familiar to us all, when living into circumstances that challenge us but to which we have said “Yes.” And that Yes is witnessed to in his other gesture. While his right hand holds his head, his left hand is resolutely on his wife’s shoulder. “Steady on. I’m here, I’m with you in this.” He is not entirely sure what is going on, but he is present and staying put.  There is a courageous authenticity in this portrayal of Joseph for any of us holding bewilderment and belief in tension.

Lastly, the curious heavenly crowd, pressed down, is spilling over onto the scene in a wave of wonder. They wait their turn to peek at the child, then surge forward with arms and voices raised in adulation. Their forward, ongoing movement leads the viewer’s imagination past the picture plane and emulates the movement of Advent itself—that Christ came and will come again in the ongoing work of redemption. 


Brian Kershisnik: Nativity, 2006, oil on canvas, 7’ x 17’, copyright Brian T. Kershisnik, Used with permission. 

Brian Kershiknik (born 1962) is a contemporary American painter. He studied art at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and the University of Texas at Austin. He sums up his artistic philosophy in the following statement: "There is great importance in successfully becoming human, in striving to fully understand others, ourselves, and God. The process is difficult and filled with awkward discoveries and happy encounters, dreadful sorrow, and unmitigated joy sometimes several at once. I believe art should facilitate this journey, rather than simply decorate it, or worse, distract us from it. It should remind us of what we have forgotten, illuminate what we know, or teach us new things. Through art we can come to feel and understand and love more completely—we become more human... I firmly believe that when a painting succeeds, I have not created it, but rather participated in it. I paint because I love, and because I love to paint. The better I become at both, the more readily accessed and identified is this grace, and the better will be my contribution." (Kershisnik, Brian. "LDS Artwork by Brian Kershisnkik" Latter-Day Home). Kershisnik is represented by multiple galleries including Meyer Gallery, David Ericson Fine Art, New Vision Art, Cocoon Works on Paper, and Saatchi Art. 

Kim Williams is both artist and educator. After receiving an Associate’s Degree in Christian Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Art Education, she has taught children for the last 25 years. She taught art in public and private schools in Missouri and Kansas and was the Children’s Minister for eight years at St. John’s Anglican Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she regularly and zealously incorporated the visual arts into her work with children and their families. Currently she works as an instructor for the Wayne Art Center in Wayne, PA. Like a good educator, she is a generalist and when not teaching others, turns to one of the several mediums she has used over the years for her creative output, from oil paint to charcoal, pastels to printmaking. 

ArtWay Visual Meditation December 23, 2018

For more materials for Advent and Christmas, click here


- June 2024: Year B, Proper 18 (Revised Common Lectionary)
- April 2024: EASTER - Lynn Aldrich: Grid Buster
- January 2024: James Janknegt: The Rich Man and Lazarus
- December 2023: Rembrandt van Rijn: The Annunciation
- October 2023: Sunday Christ the King
- April 2023: Year A, Proper 17
- February 2023: Lent: James Janknegt: The Rich Man and Lazarus
- October 2022: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- June 2022: Michaelmas, September 29
- March 2022: Lent
- January 2022: The Speck and the Log
- November 2021: Advent - Care for the Earth
- September 2021: Year B, Proper 25
- May 2021: Year B, Proper 18 (Revised Common Lectionary)
- April 2021: Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: Seven Last Words of Christ
- February 2021: Year B, Lent 6: The Ointment of Nard by Arcabas
- January 2021: Year B, Epiphany 8
- December 2020: Advent: Butterfly
- August 2020: Year A, 21st Sunday after Pentecost: Psalm 1
- June 2020: A Year, 10th Sunday of the Summer
- May 2020: Pentecost: Donna Shasteen
- April 2020: The Scene in the Kitchen; Christ at Emmaus
- March 2020: The Seven Last Words of Christ
- January 2020: Year A, Epiphany 3
- November 2019: Edward Hicks: The Peaceable Kingdom
- October 2019: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- August 2019: Ordinary Time
- March 2019: Aaron Douglas & James Johnson: Listen Lord
- January 2019: The Speck and the Log
- December 2018: Botticelli: Madonna and Child, with Saints
- November 2018: Gor Chahal and Jan Krist
- August 2018: Year A, Autumn Sunday 8, Parable of the Talents
- May 2018: Ernst Barlach: The Believer
- March 2018: Easter: Grid Buster
- March 2018: Good Friday: I am Thirsty
- February 2018: Lent: The Rich Man and Lazarus
- January 2018: Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year B
- November 2017: Advent - Johannes Vermeer: Woman with Balance
- September 2017: A year, 6th Sunday of the Autumn
- August 2017: A Year, 10th Sunday of the Summer
- May 2017: Pentecost: Images for the Holy Spirit
- April 2017: Fra Angelico: Christ in Limbo
- February 2017: Roger Wagner: Lazarus (Psalm 49)
- January 2017: Gislebertus: The Dream of the Three Kings
- November 2016: Advent: Butterfly
- November 2016: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- September 2016: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- January 2016: 25 January - Caravaggio: The Conversion of Saul
- December 2015: Meditating on the Life of Christ
- November 2015: Gor Chahal and Jan Krist
- October 2015: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- August 2015: Ordinary Time
- June 2015: Van Gogh: The Sower
- February 2015: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
- December 2010: Advent - Until He Comes!