Together, under tension

Professors explore conflicting concepts in solo exhibitions at Rosewood

By Joyell Nevins

Those who can’t do, teach. That maxim is proved wrong this month with two adjoining exhibitions at the Rosewood Gallery in Kettering’s Rosewood Arts Centre. A pair of college professors show that art is still as much within them as the students that they teach in the exhibitions The Humming Persists and Flight of Obscurity IV.

John Dickinson, a professor of sculpture at Wright State University, and Nathaniel Foley, an adjunct art and design instructor at Bowling Green State University, Owens Community College and Defiance College, were chosen by Rosewood’s panel to appear in side by side exhibit spaces.

“The panel thought their work was complementary,” Gallery Coordinator Tracey Flagg says.

Dickinson and Foley were two of 51 artists who submitted proposals for the 2016 season to the Rosewood panel. The panel chose only eight artists to exhibit their work in Rosewood’s solo space.

Dickinson’s set of mixed media paintings is called The Humming Persists. Images peep through in the paintings, as he explores art as more of a vent than a window.

“Vents don’t open up into space, like windows. Instead, images have to seep through,” he explains in his statement. “Vents allow for circulation and dispersal. Similarly, the paintings are engaged in an exercise of continual displacement.”

The Dayton artist said he’s interested in the notion of dislocation and decentering the focus in his works.

“Doubling, layering, duplicating and framing are all employed, not so much to obstruct meaning, but to indefinitely postpone its arrival. They’re red herrings without underlying agendas, signaling away from nothing in particular,” Dickinson details.

Dickinson double majored in art and philosophy as an undergrad at Colorado State University before earning his masters of fine art at Southern Methodist University. Dickinson feels the philosophy instruction helps him analyze his own work—to think about it “after the fact.”

Not knowing necessarily where a work is going or how it will turn out is one of the reasons Dickinson enjoys what he does. He calls it the “risk involved.”

And Dickinson has no problem revisiting a work after he’s finished it. He said he is always trying to make his paintings better.

“It’s something about the process,” Dickinson says. “I don’t [expect] the works to be likable right away.”

Foley’s process takes the space into his consideration in the final product. The sculptures on display at Rosewood, entitled Flight of Obscurity IV, have been traveling the country for the last two years, but change slightly with each space. In Rosewood, he will be integrating these works with a hanging military net and red lights.

“I enjoy changing the gallery spaces, which allows the viewer to experience the gallery environment in unexpected ways,” Foley explains.

The theme remains the same—aviation. Growing up in a family of pilots, Foley says, exposed him to the “awe-inspiring” mysteries of flight from an early age.

“I utilize the language and materials that are present in aviation and reorganize them into my sculptures,” Foley says.

Those materials include aluminum, safety wire, field rivets, poplar, steel rods and cleco clamps.

“Countless hours were spent building models of planes and talking about aircraft with my father, a certified aviation mechanic and instructor, whose passion propelled my curiosity,” Foley explains in his statement. “Our conversations resulted in my insatiable desire to create forms with my own hands that brought my interest in aviation to light utilizing construction techniques and processes, such as riveting and sheet metal fabrication, that have been used throughout aviation history.”

The Findlay-based artist explores the use of flight in both travel and warfare. The sculptures on display at Rosewood consist of cones integrated with spires and held together under tension, supported by utilitarian containers.

“This fragile relationship of forms exposes the delicate balance between grace and imminent danger, similar to the fleeting ballet of courting birds or the hostility felt between foes engaged in a dogfight. Through references to aeronautical form, the sculptures in Flight of Obscurity IV communicate tension and dance in direct opposition of fundamental forces,” Foley says.

Foley earned a bachelor of fine arts in ceramics and sculpture from Eastern Michigan University and a master of fine arts in sculpture from Miami University in Oxford.

Foley will also lead a free workshop on aviation riveting with his exhibition at Rosewood Gallery at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 12. Reserve a space by calling 937.296.0294.

The Humming Persists and Flight of Obscurity IV will be on display from March 7 to April 8, with an opening reception from 6-8 p.m. on March 10, at Rosewood Gallery, 2655 Olson Dr. in Kettering. For more information, please call 937.296.02924 or visit

Joyell Nevins believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at



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Joyell Nevins
Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at or reach her at

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