David Lusk Gallery Nashville / 516 Hagan St., #100 October 14, 2023 - November 11, 2023

Billy Renkl

David Lusk Gallery Nashville welcomes collage and multimedia artist Billy Renkl this fall. THE COMFORT OF CROWS features 52 unique collages Renkl made to mirror each essay in his sister Margaret Renkl’s forthcoming book of the same title. Billy’s collages parallel Margaret’s essays that celebrate the wildness of nature.

The collages and collection of essays both share a love for the achingly beautiful world and the life that animates it and a real fear that we've tipped past the point of saving it. The collages are built on top of toned cyanotypes mounted on handmade paper that has been stained one of four colors to correspond with the seasons. In addition to cyanotypes, sheet music, wedding invitations, and a host of other paper ephemera, mostly antique, build a layered portrait of Billy’s collections of paper and Margaret’s collections of backyard experiences. The birds, for instance, are cut from chromolithographs from The Birds of Pennsylvania published in the 1890s. Many works include watercolor, gouache, ink, or wax pencil, and personal tokens collected throughout Billy’s life. Fall: Week Four, a collage consisting mainly of blue imagery from Billy’s wife Susan Bryant cyanotypes, grasslands, a detailed, delicate flower, all grounded on earthy brown paper.

This series is akin to a traditional photo essay, in which details accrue through sustained observation, incrementally building a layered portrait of the subject. Just as in Margaret’s yard, bluebirds come and go through these collages; native plants bud, flower, and go to seed; the seasons cycle along. Billy’s visual elements are culled from a surplus of botanical imagery, collected for their illustrative nature that contrasts with the technicality of vintage maps and manuscripts. He intuitively selects from his surplus of materials selected for their illustrative quality to begin his open-ended process. These decisions are responses to the tactile qualities of an image or document. Billy’s process combines visual phrases that speak to ambiguous memory and personal connection.

The 52 essays in The Comfort of Crows express three themes: the natural world as a source of curiosity when examined with focused eyes, a source of astonishment and devotion, and a model for understanding ourselves within the world and our relationships. “As we move through the seasons—from a crow spied on New Year’s Day, its resourcefulness and sense of community setting a theme for the year, to the lingering bluebirds of December, revisiting the nest box they used in spring—what develops is a portrait of joy and grief: joy in the ongoing pleasures of the natural world, and grief over winters that end too soon and songbirds that grow fewer and fewer.”

Born in Birmingham, AL, Billy Renkl graduated from Auburn University with a BFA in Visual Communications and an MFA in Studio Art, Drawing, and Painting from the University of South Carolina. He is a professor of drawing and illustration at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN, where he lives and works. Renkl’s work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions, including shows in Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Cincinnati, and Berlin, Germany. He is also the illustrator of When You Breathe by Diana Farid; Late Migrations and The Comfort of Crows, both by Margaret Renkl, feature his collage works. This is his first solo exhibition at David Lusk Gallery.

David Lusk Gallery is located at 516 Hagan Street in Nashville. Gallery hours are Tu-Sa, 10-5. For more information or visuals please contact Lees Romano at 615-780-9990 or lees@davidluskgallery.com.