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New APSU Downtown Exhibit Features Innovative Collages by Billy Renkl

          

           CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Legal documents, such as old, notarized deeds of trust, aren’t usually considered poetic or offer much in the way of aesthetics. The crinkled, yellow pages provide straightforward information about who owns what and where.

          

           CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Legal documents, such as old, notarized deeds of trust, aren’t usually considered poetic or offer much in the way of aesthetics. The crinkled, yellow pages provide straightforward information about who owns what and where.

            But artist and Austin Peay State University drawing professor Billy Renkl views these old papers differently. He sees an entire world of deep, contradictory meanings arising when he uses the documents as a canvas for his pen and ink.

            “In these old images, diagrams and maps, the world is represented as both sensible and miraculous, systematic and astonishing,” he said. “They are didactic images originally made to be clear and objective, a rational distillation of a mechanical world. Out of context, however, they are rich in beauty and poetry. In calling attention to these contradictory qualities in the images I use, I am making an assertion about the world to which they refer.”

            A new exhibit of Renkl’s work, “Manuscripts, Documents, Deeds of Trust: An Exhibition of Works Supported by an APSU Summer Research Fellowship,” opens with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 3 at the Austin Peay Downtown Gallery. The show runs through Feb. 26, and as the title suggests, Renkl’s work for this exhibit was funded by an APSU Summer Research Fellowship.

Renkl’s collage work often features fragments of old texts and diagrams, exploring the relationship that fine art has to information graphics, as well as the nostalgia inherent in paper ephemera.

            “It is important to the meaning of my work that the viewer understand the components of the collages have had a former life as objective information (that this is a page from an anatomy textbook published in 1820, for instance, rather than a reproduction of that page),” he said. “The elements then bring their experience to the work, recasting what they knew before as something imprecise but now rich in metaphor.”

Renkl’s work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions around the world, including solo shows at The Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Marguerite Oestreicher Fine Arts in New Orleans, Vanderbilt University, The University of Alabama, The University of Kentucky, The Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Galerie Neue Raume, Berlin, Germany. He is represented in some permanent collections, including The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Kiwanis Club International, The Tennessee State Museum, and The College of Notre Dame, Baltimore.

Last year, the APSU Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts leased a building in downtown Clarksville to provide gallery space for APSU alumni and faculty. The gallery, located at 116 Strawberry Alley, is open from noon to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information on this space or the faculty exhibit, contact APSU associate professor of art Barry Jones at 931-221-7330 or jonesb@apsu.edu.