Artist Biographies

This year, we’re featuring the works of three remarkable contemporary artists who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: painters Brian Kershinik and Kathleen Peterson and sculptor Nnamdi Okonkwo. We’re also delighted to present performances by local musicians to fill the exhibit hall with the sounds of the season. Learn more about them below.

Artists

Brian Kershisnik, painter

Brian Kershisnik is the youngest of a happy and widely traveled family of sons. His father’s work as a petroleum geologist took them to various continents across the globe where his mother unfailingly set up a home filled with music, great food and active conversation, furnished with treasures and artifacts from their travels and hosting frequent parties and exotic slide shows of their globetrotting family life.

Brian grew up happily dividing his time between his dad’s overseas assignments and summers spent with cousins in Rock Springs, Wyoming, a friendly, curious kid and with no notion at all of what he wanted to be when he grew up. Though he drew often to entertain himself, it never occurred to him that people actually did that for a living. Finding himself unceremoniously graduated from high school after an emergency evacuation from Pakistan abruptly ended his senior year, he applied to the University of Utah where his brother was attending school.

A General Architecture class from Peter Goss and a ceramics class from Dorothy Bearnsen began to focus his interests. After serving as a missionary in Northern Europe he determined to study ceramics at Brigham Young University and then architecture at the University of Utah. During his first year in ceramics he met Joe and Lee Bennion and arranged to spend the summer working in Joe’s pottery. After some months it became apparent that Brian was no potter and Lee suggested he try something with her paint box. Painting changed everything. Gallery owner Dolores Chase noticed his exhibitions and offered to begin his professional career.

While based in Utah, Brian is reaching ever-widening audiences with the expansion of a national base of collectors and shows, as well as works featured in collections around the world. However widely he wanders, his yearly openings at David Ericson Fine Art in Salt Lake City and Meyer Gallery in Park City always have an air of reunion and camaraderie. His studio practice shifts between monastic solitude in his rural Kanosh studio and communal busy-ness in his Provo studio. He now lives with his wife, Faith, their dog and their bees, in the town of Provo, surrounded by his three grown children.

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Kathleen Peterson, painter

Kathleen Peterson was born in Provo, Utah and studied art and dance at Brigham Young University. Kathleen has been creating artwork from a very young age and is currently mostly known for her religious paintings within the artist community of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her pioneer heritage combined with her life-long international travels have influenced and inspired her unique and narrative style.

As an early artist, Kathleen enjoyed working mostly with watercolors, but has recently been focusing on painting with oils. In addition to painting, she welcomes any opportunity to create beauty with her hands and loves making batiks, stained-glass murals, intaglio prints and building clay figures. Her subjects include vast rural landscapes of Utah, majestic sandstone national parks, historic pioneer homes, quaint towns, farm animals and women. As a mother, grandmother, sister and daughter, Kathleen's spiritual connection to the beauty and complexities of the day-to-day life of women is portrayed in an exquisite and elegant form.

Kathleen’s art has been featured in several galleries in Utah, California and Hawaii, and also in the Ensign magazine. She has illustrated dozens of books including The Lesson, by Carol Lynn Pearson, A World of Faith, by Peggy Fletcher-Stack and Girls Who Choose God: Stories From Courageous Women of the Bible, by Bethany Brady Spalding and McArthur Krishna. Some of these original illustrations can be seen in the Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Now that their four children are raised, Kathy and her husband Steve can be found painting and working on their farm in Historic Spring City, Utah where they raise hay, a lovely vegetable garden and enjoy caring for their many farm animals.

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Nnamdi Okonkwo, sculptor

Born in Eastern Nigeria, Nnamdi Okonkwo was born as the first of three sons. As far back as he can remember, he has always been drawn to art. He later realized his artistic sensibilities were best expressed in the three-dimensional art of sculpture. Around this same time, he was introduced to basketball, which suited him well, since he is six feet nine inches tall. After obtaining a degree in painting in Nigeria, basketball became the avenue for him to come to the United States. He was recruited by Brigham Young University-Hawaii where he played from 1989-1993 and graduated with a BFA in Sculpture.

Immediately after that, he enrolled in the graduate program at Brigham Young University-Provo where he received an MFA degree in sculpture in 1997. While attending school in Provo, he met and married his wife, Deidra, who is from Idaho and graduated with a Master of Accountancy degree.

He currently resides in Georgia with his wife and three children, where he works full time out of his studio in Fayetteville. His work is represented in galleries across the country, and his large-scale monumental work can be seen in individual and public sculpture gardens.

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Musicians

Gunn High School Chamber Singers

Led by William Liberatore, the Gunn High School Chamber Singers perform a variety of choral literature including Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Jazz, Gospel and music from around the world. Since 1991, the Gunn Choir has received 18 Unanimous Superior ratings from the California Music Educators Association and has been awarded First Prize at the National Events Festival in Vancouver, the Heritage Festival in Anaheim, and the Command Performance Festival in San Diego. The choir has performed in many countries, including for High Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and with orchestra in the Votiv Kirche in Vienna.

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James Welch

James Welch is University Organist of Santa Clara University. He also serves as organist of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto. He received the Doctor of Musical Arts in organ performance from Stanford University. He has concertized internationally, with performances at Notre Dame Cathedral, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, National Cathedral, and the Tabernacle on Temple Square. A specialist in Latin American organ music, he received a Fulbright award to perform and conduct research in Brazil. Joining him on this seasonal program will be several other musicians from the Stanford community, in a wide variety of instrumental and vocal music.

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Mayfield Singers

Mayfield Singers, a select group of choral musicians assembled in 2014, performs locally in and around the Palo Alto, California area. Their broad repertoire includes classics like Tallis, Mendelssohn, and Stanford to contemporary composers like Rutter, Wilberg, Hogan, and Whitacre.

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Mountain View High School Madrigals

Led by Jill Denny, the award-winning Mountain View High School Madrigals sing a wide range of repertoire from around the world. They have performed extensively throughout the Bay Area, including past “Nutcracker” performances at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts and at the Filoli Estate. Annual international tours have taken them to many countries, including performances of Renaissance music in London at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Notre Dame in Paris.

San Francisco State University Handbell Choir

Formed in 1997, the SFSU Choir is comprised of SFSU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The group performs approximately ten times a year at various SFSU campus events and around the Bay Area. The group participates in the Redwood City’s annual Hometown Holiday celebration and at the annual Days of Christmas concert series at Temple Hill in Oakland. The handbell choir rehearses at Temple United Methodist Church in San Francisco and plays for services and programs there several times a year.

The group rings on 5 octaves of Schulmerich handbells and on 4 1/2 octaves of Malmark handchimes. The handbell choir frequently performs as a small ensemble of five — playing what is known as 12-bell music. For these performances, the group uses 12 handbells and play from music stands instead of in the traditional “off the table style.”

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Valparaiso Singers

Established in 1987, the Valparaiso Singers is a local LDS-based vocal ensemble based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ensemble’s repertoire ranges from larger classical masterworks (Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Faure’s Requiem) to intimate choral compositions from renowned choral composers (Eric Whitacre, John Rutter). Its mission is to inspire, uplift, and entertain audiences through beautiful choral music.

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