The Early Days - 1975
1976 - 1996
Kerslake started drawing as a small child and began to consider fine art as a career in high school. His formal study of art began in 1950 at Pratt Institute in New York City, where he was encouraged by teachers Philip Guston and Roger Crossgrove . With the latter's encouragement, Kerslake transferred to the University of Illinois in Champaign in 1953, where he received both the Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts. There, he discovered his medium when he took an intaglio printmaking course with Professor Lee Chesney, a mentor who was to become a lifelong friend. Kerslake enjoyed his first teaching experiences as a graduate assistant to Chesney. Soon, after receiving his master's degree in 1958, Kerslake accepted a faculty position with the School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida in Gainesville.Intaglio printmaking was Kerslake's primary medium, but he also produced series of prints in lithography and vitreography. In the final years of his life, he also experimented in computer-generated imagery, creating ink jet prints that he used alongside more traditional techniques. He also painted throughout his career.
While the work of the 1950s and ‘60s referred to large issues of contemporary culture and existential anxiety, Kerslake's works of the 1970s began to take on a more personal tone. Color and the use of photomechanical reproduction also take precedence in the prints of that decade. Kerslake credited his colleague Todd Walker, a professor in photography and printmaking at the University of Florida, with awakening his interest in the use of photo processes in printmaking. In “The Magic House of the Heart's Desire”, Kerslake combined images of a historic mansion located in his hometown of Mt. Vernon; twin images of his wife and children (located in rondels below the central image) and an all-seeing (protective) eye that hovers above all. The imagery conveys nostalgia, familial responsibilities in the present and a desire to secure the future. The artist's feeling for the language of longing culminates in his “Cecelia: The Artist's Mother as a Young Woman” created in the year following his mother's death. The print features a photo-etching of a smiling girl standing on a rocky plain as seagulls wheel overhead. According to Larry D. Perkins, former curator of collections at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Florida, the birds refer to “the transcendence of the spirit, while the receding rectangles that frame the portrait may suggest the passing of time or alternate states of existence.”In 1982, Kerslake began a series of profiles of an old man with a bald head and a Roman nose with which he confronted human mortality. The series began with monotypes, to which intaglio techniques were gradually added. Sometimes the head is superimposed against a written background in which words are only occasionally legible, later words appear as legends under the profiles that refer to the old man's thought process or state of being.