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Nathaniel Foley brings innovation and aviation in "Flight of Obscurity"

Artists Nathaniel Foley presents a wide variety of his sculptors in the Elzay Art Gallery  (photo/NR/Dominic Turnea).

"Flight of Obscurity" comes to ONU

Artists Nathaniel Foley presents a wide variety of his sculptors in the Elzay Art Gallery (photo/NR/Dominic Turnea).


Thick, dark netting suspends in the air of the Elzay Art Gallery, obscuring the sculptures from being clearly identified.  Only upon slipping through the netting one can properly enter, explore, and gaze upon the intricate varieties of sculptures that make up “Flight of Obscurity”. 

Upon entering the Elzay Art Gallery to see Nathaniel Foley’s pieces for “Flight of Obscurity,” one can browse through a surplus of interactive guides that display silhouettes and sketched models of the sculptures.  Inspired by World War 2, veterans needed to identify the silhouettes of the planes to see which was friend or foe. 

Nathan Foley is quite familiar with art and aviation.  His sculptures reflect and respect the history of aviation, while bringing an energetic and innovative way one sees both aviation and art.  Coming from a family of pilots, aviation has been a part of Foley’s life. 

“I communicate concepts rooted in aviation history through a visual language that references both travel and warfare by fabricating dynamic and iconic forms of flight,” said Foley. 

On Jan. 25, Foley visited Ohio Northern University to discuss his sculptures and the process that goes into his work.  With an MFA from Miami University, Foley is not only an artist, but he is a professor at Tiffin University, teaching a variety of modern and practical design courses.  With “Flight of Obscurity,” Foley hopes to not only create intricate structures, but to remove the stigma surrounding aviation and warfare.  The sculptures do not acknowledge a singular plane, country, or historical moment, but each sculpture gives nod to a variety of aircrafts from Britain, Russia, and the United States. 

It’s about experimenting how one can get these sculptures to exist.  I really enjoy their forms: fitting together, sitting them together in a space, Foley said.  I am not thinking about the country, but the form and shape. 

Some sculptures can take two weeks to be created, while others can take a month or two.  Foley begins the creative process with a sketch.  Once the sketch is finalized, the materials are gathered.  From wood, metal, and even carbon, Foley uses both old and modern materials for the sculptures.  Pieces are connected with aviation wire, and Foley often rivets the metal by hand.  With one mistake during the riveting process, the entire piece can be faltered and may need to be restarted.  What’s most fascinating about the sculptures is that they can easily be assembled and disassembled for travel purposes. 

Not every sculpture remains the same.  Foley can change and readjust his work if needed.  The sculptures and their shapes are versatile, some created years ago can be revamped and reconstructed. 

“I allow this form to evolve, and I go back and see where the aircraft relates to,” Foley said.  

With history, family, and the passion of art, Foley has successfully incorporated the elements of style and obscurity into his works.  The ADA and ONU community can see the work from “Flight of Obscurity” until Feb. 23 in the Elzay Gallery. 

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