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Exhibition exposes ‘corporeal reality’ of tropics

A painting on fabric by artist Denise Burge

“Denise Burge: Recent Work” is on display at Pellissippi State through Feb. 4. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

A new art exhibit at Pellissippi State Community College shows another side of “usually glamorous” beach life. 

“Denise Burge: Recent Work” will be on display in the College’s Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville, through Feb. 4. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. 

Burge received her Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1991 and has been a professor at University of Cincinnati in Ohio since 1992. She works in a variety of media including painting, film, installation and quilt making. 

“Her work is beautiful and unsettling, using images of lush beach landscapes that are completely devoid of people,” said Pellissippi State Professor Herb Rieth. “I described the work in our faculty meeting on Monday as ‘a Destin spring break party where a neutron bomb went off.'” 

“I am interested in the romance that we attach to natural space, an illusion onto which we project our desires and fears,” Burge writes on her website. “Imagery of the tropical is usually glamorous, a sort of air-brushed cultural fantasy of profusion and sensuality. I like to expose its more corporeal reality, depicting vernacular tropical living spaces that one finds a few blocks back from the beachfront.” 

Burge has received multiple Ohio Arts Council Awards for Individual Artists and has carried out residencies at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California; and the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. In 2004 she was awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award for Visual Art.   

Burge’s exhibit is the first offering in The Arts at Pellissippi State for spring 2022. The Arts at Pellissippi State includes visual arts exhibits as well as theatre and music performances, all of which are open to the public. For a complete list of this semester’s events, visit