Billy Renkl About

Vintage and antique paper can be surprisingly beautiful, and I find the way that it carries its history with it moving.

It is almost like a body, the way that it ages, gets scarred, bears the marks of what has happened to it, who has owned it and how they used it.

Sometimes I have an idea for a piece first, and often that comes from something I’m reading. I then start hunting through my studio for the right fragments to give that idea form. Often, though, I’m struck by how lovely or strange or moving a particular scrap of paper is, and it will suggest a direction for a new piece of work.

Before the last hundred years or so, artworks in our tradition were mostly made of the same few luxury materials: oil paint on canvas, tempera on wood panel, stone or bronze, gold leaf on vellum. It was that way, in the European/American tradition, for maybe more than a thousand years. A hundred years ago, though, in the summer of 1912, Georges Braque had this incredible insight: he could paste down a piece of wallpaper that had been printed to look like wood onto his artwork, and forego drawing the wood himself. (The word ‘collage’ comes from the French word for paste.) This was revolutionary – it opened up the whole world for artists. After Braque, artists could make art out of anything. To me, this revolutionary insight is as important in the history of art as the discovery of perspective in the Renaissance. In fact, perspective is a kind of illusion, the illusion of space in a flat artwork; collages can be made of images, but they are seldom illusions.

I grew up in Birmingham, AL. I attended Auburn University (BFA, Visual Communications) and the University of South Carolina (MFA, Drawing). I teach drawing and illustration at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN.

My work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions, including solo shows at The Cumberland Gallery (Nashville, TN), Marguerite Oestreicher Fine Arts (New Orleans), Vanderbilt University, The University of Kentucky, The Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Galerie Neue Raume (Berlin, Germany). I am represented in several permanent collections, including The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Kiwanis Club International, The Tennessee State Museum, and The College of Notre Dame, Baltimore.

In addition to gallery exhibitions, I have worked with many clients on illustration assignments, including SouthWest Airlines, How Magazine, Vanderbilt University, Klutz Inc., Strategy & Business, The River Styx, Poems and Plays, and Rigby Publishing.


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