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‘Flight of Obscurity’ showcases movement and forms of aviation

Posted on 11.21.2017
Nathan Foley’s “Flight of Obscurity XIV” exhibit takes inspiration from aircraft in the context of conflict and war. It includes pieces made of wood, sheet metal and carbon fiber separated by mesh military camouflage netting. Photo by Andy Carr

Nathan Foley’s “Flight of Obscurity XIV” exhibit takes inspiration from aircraft in the context of conflict and war. It includes pieces made of wood, sheet metal and carbon fiber separated by mesh military camouflage netting. Photo by Andy Carr

“Flight of Obscurity XIV” is an exhibit created by Nathan Foley which opened in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center on Nov. 13. The exhibit will be open through Dec. 15 on weekdays.

The primary focus of Foley’s work is on conflict between dueling aircraft , the achievement of supersonic speeds and the clouds created by the flights of aircraft. Foley has a very particular interest in the shape of cones, and he uses this obsession within his work.

“My obsession with the cone started with my research of supersonic flight and the formation of conical vapor clouds,” Foley said. “Each sculpture has this form incorporated into its composition, but the materials vary between each cone.”

Foley also mimics the aesthetic of aircraft by crafting his pieces by hand from wood, sheet metal, carbon fiber and other materials. The process is the true focus of the art, which is why observers can see every individual rivet that holds the metal in place, and why Foley hand-manipulates each component that makes up every piece.

“It is not only about the materials within the work, it is also about the process that is involved to make the work,” Foley said. “I have learned pneumatic riveting techniques that have been used in aviation since the 1920’s.”

Each of Foley’s pieces is named after a specific aircraft that at one point flew in service of a nation’s defense. Foley names the pieces after their construction, as he feels naming them too early may interfere with the changes he wishes to make.

Foley’s art tends to highlight the danger of flying and fighting for your country.

“…These compositions are individual moments that portray multiple moments of some kind of conflict between foes,” Foley said. “They dance through space like birds engaged in a dog fight.  The forms heighten the reference to danger because of their sharp and angular lines.”

Some students, such as freshman studio art major Amanda Thompson, picked up on Foley’s intent.

“I certainly found it interesting. It wasn’t at all what I expected,”  Thompson said. “It was certainly sharp, it was angular, and it honestly seemed dangerous. I’m not typically a fan of art exhibits, despite being an art student, but this one stood out to me, and I really liked the lighting and the setting.”

The exhibit was divided by walls of military camouflage mesh netting. Within the room, there was low lighting, and some pieces had red lights installed within or around them.

According to freshman visual communication major Tatyana Gray, the exhibit was quick to capture her attention.

“I would say that the exhibit was very intriguing,” Gray said. “It pulled you in, with every step you took, easily moving on to the next piece.”

Foley said he invests a large amount of time and effort into each piece. The shortest piece at the exhibit took Foley just over two weeks to complete, while the longest piece took over six months, and the search for inspiration, planning, research and gathering of supplies has taken several years to complete, at points.

The first time Foley began to interact with anything involving aviation was when he was two years old, and his family has an extensive history with air vehicles.

“My family has been involved in
aviation for three generations,” Foley said. “I grew up around aircraft and was always curious about different aspects of flight and aircraft.”

“Flight of Obscurity XIV” is the third gallery to be exhibited in CDFAC for the 2017-2018 school year. The next
exhibition, “Illustration: Women
Making a Mark,” will highlight women from around the globe who were drawn to illustration through their unique
experiences. The exhibit will open on Jan. 22.

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