Joshua Adam Risner grew up in rural central Ohio. Following high school he pursued a career in commercial art holding jobs such as sign painter, graphic designer, creative director and business owner. At the age of thirty he left the commercial art industry to attend Ashland University where he earned a BFA in painting with an art history minor. After finishing his undergraduate degree Risner moved to Michigan to pursue a graduate degree. He earned his MFA from Kendall College of Art and Design where he received a full tuition fellowship. He has won numerous awards for his oil paintings and drawings. He considers his artwork to be a material representation of the process within himself that seeks to understand his reality. Risner’s work might best be described as allegorical images that appear to be from the past, but speak a language that could only come from the present. He considers them amalgamations of the entirety of human history, not just a fragment of his contemporary situation dislocated from history. They are objects culminating from the past and filtered through the present. His current research interests include topics related to allegory and narrative.
2012 - 2014 Kendall College of Art & Design, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Master of Fine Arts Major: Painting GPA: 4.0
2008 - 2012 Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Cum Laude
Major: Studio Painting/Printmaking Minor: Art History GPA: 3.975
2016 - present Michigan State Capital Artist in Residence, Lansing, MI
2016 - present Michigan State Capital Artist/Master Decorative Painter, Lansing, MI
2015 - 2016 Adjunct Professor, Hope College, Holland, MI
Course titles: Painting I, Painting II
2015 - 2016 Adjunct Professor, Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids, MI
Course titles: Introduction to Oil Painting.
2014 - 2016 Continuing Studies Instructor, Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids, MI
Teach a variety of classes including painting, drawing, and printmaking.
2005 – present Owner/Creative Director, Shuative Design, Ashland, Ohio
Developed creative programs and design concepts to meet business objectives for a variety of organizations. Duties included developing brand strategies, print design, copywriting, web design, programming and product photography.
2001 - 2005 Creative Director, Lamar Advertising, Ashland, Ohio
Developed design concepts for advertising campaigns. Responsibilities involved various creative skills like branding, print design, copy-writing and photography.
1996 – 2001 Sign Painter/Graphic Designer, Kilbane Advertising, Ashland, Ohio
Developed designs and layouts for sign and billboard advertising and executed them to completion. Led transition of the company’s creative department from sign painting to graphic design and digital productiion.
Introduction to Oil Painting, Adjunct Professor for Kendall College of Art & Design
Painting with Oils, Continuing Studies Instructor for Kendall College of Art & Design
Alla Prima Workshop, Continuing Studies Instructor for Kendall College of Art & Design
Relief Printmaking, Continuing Studies Instructor for Kendall College of Art & Design
Drawing Preperation Demonstration, Kendall College of Art & Design
Exhibitions & Awards
2015 Rediscovering Allegory, Solo-exhibition, Mansfield Art Center, Mansfield, OH
Understanding Implied Narrative, Publication, Representational Art Conference, Ventura, CA,
Amalgamation, Two person show, Devos Skywalk Gallery, Grand Rapids, MI
Muskegon Museum of Art 87th Regional Exhibition, Muskegon, MI
Purchase Award, UICA Festival 2015 Regional Arts Exhibition, Grand Rapids, MI
People's Choice Award, UICA Festival 2015 Regional Arts Exhibition, Grand Rapids, MI
West Michigan Area Show, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI
2014 Best of Show, Muskegon Museum of Art 86th Regional Exhibition, Muskegon, MI
Juror’s Award, UICA Festival 2014 Regional Arts Exhibition, Grand Rapids, MI
Manifest 9th International Drawing Annual,
International Juried Exhibition-in-Print (Publication), Cincinnati, OH
Third Place, West Michigan Area Show, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, MI
MEGA at UICA, Michigan Emerging Graduate Artist Juried Exhibition, Grand Rapids, MI
28th Annual West Michigan Regional Art Competition, Juried Exhibition, Lowell, MI
Art Prize, Monday Morning, Women’s City Club, Grand Rapids, MI
Tales Told Juried Exhibition, Manifest Gallery, Cincinnatti, OH
Invitational Exhibition, Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Saugatuck, MI
Fusion Exhibition, Juried exhibition at the Devos Convention Center, Grand Rapids, MI
Numbers, Invitational show at the Sandusky Cultural Center, Sandusky, OH
2013 Manifest Gallery, Master Pieces 7, Exhibition & Publication, Cincinnati, OH
Artistaday.com featured artist, Aug 8th, International Website
Art Prize, Ethics of Metaphysics, St. Cecilia Music Center, Teaberry Gallery, Grand Rapids, MI
2012 Full Tuition & Fee Fellowship, Kendall College of Art & Design, Grand Rapids, MI
Invitation Exhibition, Art about Art, Sandusky Cultural Center, Sandusky, OH
Solo Exhibition & Presentation, Grace Episcopal Church, Mansfield, OH
Outstanding Senior Exhibition Award, Ashland University, Coburn Gallery, Ashland, OH
Best of Show Award, Ashland University Juried Exhibition, Coburn Gallery, Ashland, OH
Printmaking Award, Ashland University Juried Exhibition, Coburn Gallery, Ashland, OH
2011 College of Arts and Sciences Junior of the Year, Ashland University, Ashland, OH
Ohio All Media Juried Exhibition, Coburn Gallery, Ashland, OH
2015 Presentation, Implied Narrative, Representational Art Conference, Ventura, CA
Guest Lecturer, American Tonalists, Kendall College of Art & Design, Grand Rapids, MI
2014 Presentation, Self-Portrait, Kalamazoo Institute of Art, Kalamazoo, MI
Gallery talk at UICA for Michigan Emerging Artist exhibition
Guest speaker at Grand Rapids Art Museum, Topic: George Inness
2013 Gallery talk, Grace Episcipal Church Gallery, Mansfield, Ohio
2012 Presentation, Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium, Ashland, Ohio
2011 Presentation, Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium, Ashland, Ohio
Tonalism: This body of work is the result of my desire to create paintings that reveal a living presence. I drew inspiration from iconography as well as the work and writings of George Inness. Inness said that “the true end of art is not to imitate a fixed material condition, but to represent a living motion.” The intent behind every mark I make is to give life to an idea, to instill a living presence within each painting. My hope is that life is always evident in the work I create.
Allegory: My artwork is the material representation of the process within me that seeks to understand reality. This is an ongoing process of discovery that is never completely realized. My search takes shape in both concept and form through a juxtaposing of contemporary and historical symbols and techniques. The result is allegorical images that look like they are from the past, but speak a language that could only come from the present. I consider them to be amalgamations of the entirety of human history, culminating from the past and filtered through the present.
Artist reaches to the past to connect with the present
"What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough." (Eugene Delacroix)
Joshua Risner is a local oil painter who insists he was born in the wrong century. “I’ve always felt more of a connection with the artists from the past, artists like Delacroix, Raphael and Rembrandt. So many great artists have come before us, each adding to the vast knowledge that came before them. I think in our rush to advance our fields today we often seek the shiny new idea and mistakenly overlook the value that can be gained by understanding the ideas that already came before us”, said Risner.
Risner embraces his heritage as an oil painter by researching traditional techniques while at the same time continuing to experiment and push beyond them. He mixes his own paints, builds his own frames and often paints on panels created using age-old techniques. “In some cases I try to emulate the painting style of master artists as a way of not only understanding their techniques, but also their mindsets”, said Risner.
Even though his paintings look like they could have been painted many years ago, Risner sees his paintings as having relevance for the present. “Prior to modernity, the symbols used in paintings were understood through convention and tradition. For example, artists would paint a symbol referenced in the Bible whose meaning would be understood generally by everyone participating in society at that time. My images are not as easily interpreted. I add meaning to the traditional symbols by placing another layer of meaning on them that usually comes from my own contemporary personal understanding.” In this way the content of Risner’s paintings speak to the angst of living in a world with unstable and unreliable communication.
“My goal as an oil painter is to add to what has already been done, not to re-invent the wheel”, said Risner. He believes that it is common today for artists to use irony and skepticism for the motivation of their content, seeking to push a political view or agenda. Risner tries to avoid these approaches seeing them as destructive and instead chooses to continue the path began by artists from the past who sought to add something to their heritage rather than break it down.