Dayton Society of Artists’ special summer exhibit

Alan Pocaro, The Distance Between Us When We Communicate (Detail)

By Tim Smith

One of the hidden artistic jewels in the Gem City is The Dayton Society of Artists, located in East Dayton. They are presenting a unique exhibit running through August 4, Project Space. This special showing will feature the works of Alan D. Pocaro, Frank Spidale, Lindsey Steelman, and Leslie Robison.

“This July, the Dayton Society of Artists is exhibiting a diverse body of work by four artists ranging from emerging to mid-career,” says Executive Director Colleen Kelsey. “This exhibition is treated as four solo exhibitions with each artist exhibiting in their own DSA gallery room. Frank Spidale’s landscapes fill the walls of the interior gallery, Alan D. Pocaro created a site-specific installation on paper in the front gallery, and Lindsey’s abstract paintings radiate as small saturated jewels in the side room gallery.”

The featured artist for Project Space is Leslie Robison, of St. Augustine, Florida. Her exhibit is titled A Soft Insurrection and through knitting and performance, explores the way we use monuments and symbols to uphold patriarchal notions of nationalism. Robison cites several sources of inspiration for her creations.

“The form of the work is inspired by both art history and family history,” she says. “I was taught to knit by my paternal grandmother, so when I knit, I am thinking about and also honoring her and the other women in the history of my family who invested their time and care into the family through this practice. But, I think the biggest inspiration for all of the work here is a real basic frustration with where we are as a society, our lack of evolution. In spite of the fact that we supposedly teach every child about kindness, there is such an inequality in how people are viewed and how they are treated. When I proposed this exhibition to DSA, I called it Becoming Monumental after the title of a series that makes up about half of the work in the show. After confirming the details of the show, I have changed the title to A Soft Insurrection.”

Like most creative types, Robison can’t help but be influenced by the current social and political climate.

“Statues and monuments are very public indicators of the people and events we want to celebrate,” she says. “They are stand-ins for shared beliefs. They are big and they tower over us. In visiting them, we pay homage to the beliefs they represent. Also, as we can see in recent debates over the national anthem and the flag, symbolic signs for who we are can be filled with a variety of disparate beliefs that have no relation to the particular symbol’s history.”

Robison’s day job is that of Associate Professor of Art at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. Like many visual artists before her, she has found no shortage of ideas in the Sunshine State.

“Since Florida’s main industry is tourism, there are plenty of examples available to me of how large ideas get sold and these ideas become more important than reality,” she says. “For over a century, the town I live in has literally capitalized on its history. St. Augustine’s claim to fam  Se is as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the U.S. [established by Europeans]. It really does have a long and very interesting history but a lot of that history gets ignored. For instance, the fact that, before Florida was a part of the U.S., slaves could run away from the British colonies and then American states and get freedom in St. Augustine’s Fort Mose’ community is a little-known fact. But that is not the history that is publicly celebrated.”

Her artistic visions encompass painting, drawing, sculpting, knitting and performing, although she claims to be camera shy. She is still adding more images to the collection for her current series as she comes across additional monuments and sculptures or other architectural erections.

“My work comes out of my reactions to lived experience,” she continues. “I feel like I am both inside and outside of the system. As a human, living in this country, at this time in history, I am immersed in culture, and so my beliefs, values, and activities are directed by this time and place, BUT, as an artist, I am trained to be an observer, someone who looks beyond the surface. In this way, my default perspective is to be critical. I am critical of everything, including myself.”

Robison’s creations have drawn universal praise, and her exhibits are well attended. She has a dual wish for Daytonians who visit her latest showing.

“While I hope visitors will feel inspired to look for the underlying power structures in our beliefs and rituals, I also really just want them to have a chuckle,” she says. “The work is intentionally absurd. It is born out of frustration but maybe visitors who are also frustrated with the absurdity of our moment in time will find some release through a shared laugh.”

The Dayton Society of Artists is located at 48 High St., Dayton. For exhibit hours and more information, call 937.228.4532, or visit

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at

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