KEESEVILLE – Donald York Rennell painted away during his COVID-19 Pandemic quarantine in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The snowbird and Keeseville High School Class of 1948 alum used acrylics to conjure a specific vista of downtown Keeseville.
“I wanted to preserve the west side of the Ausable River, the icons of Keeseville, which is the Swinging Bridge, Prescott Mill, Horse Nail Factory, Grange Hall and Masonic Hall,” he said.
The acrylic work is 4 feet long and 18 inches high on a Styrofoam board, and he gifted it to AARCH.
“I'm the Styrofoam King,” he said.
“I did it this past winter here in Florida because I was quarantined and couldn't do anything. My motivation was to preserve these icons of Keeseville.”
Rennell likes the density and thickness of the board.
“I paint the edges so when you look at my picture, it has a three-dimensional form to it because the sides and the bottom and the top are all painted two inches showing,” he said.
“The picture goes around the corner in other words. That's why I use Styrofoam. It's of a size I can use to contribute to what I want to create. It's flexible in its physical size.”
His other Keeseville subjects include Main Street, Keeseville United Methodist Church, and the Old Commercial Hotel.
“Which used to be right across the river from this one that I did, and it's hanging in the museum in Keeseville, the Anderson Falls (Heritage) Museum,” he said.
“The old Commercial Hotel burned down. It's no longer in existence.”
This new work is from a unique vantage point of the Stone Arch Bridge.
“Most pictures of the Arch Bridge are upstream looking down, and this is across the river looking upstream,” he said.
“You don't see that very often. I am mostly motivated to preserve the icons of Keeseville.”
Rennell works sometimes in pastels, sometimes in acrylics.
Sometimes, he sculpts the Styrofoam boards.
“I'm always creating something,” he said.
“I work from photographs. I took several pictures last summer and picked and chose what I wanted to show. Architecturally, it's not correct. It's qualified under the primitive nature. People will know instantly what they are looking at.”
NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES
The main subject of his painting is the Adirondack Architectural Heritage formerly the company offices for the Ausable Horse Nail Factory, which was formerly the same for the Eagle Horse Nail Factory.
Village blacksmith Daniel Dodge invented a machine to mass produce horse nails, which were sold globally in the late 19th and early 20th century.
The Ausable River powered the mill’s machinery, and its whitewaters rage below AARCH today.
“The Horse Nail Factory used to have an eagle on the roof,” Rennell said.
“In the modern pictures, it's gone. But I created it and put it back up there. The Horse Nail Factory was primarily what I was trying to capture. It's very famous, you know. It was the original location of the horse-nail machine, that used to sell horse nails all over the world. It's a very famous building."
Email Robin Caudell: