About the Exhibition
David Foley was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1961 and raised in Billerica. His drawing talents were discovered at an early age, and after high school, in 1979, he enrolled in the School of Visual Arts at Boston University. He majored in painting and minored in art history, receiving the B.F.A. degree in 1983. The faculty there was rich with figurative Boston Expressionists, painters who had migrated from the School of The Museum of Fine Arts. This faculty revered Hyman Bloom who was also one of the Boston Expressionists, and though he was not Foley’s instructor at B. U. he remains a favorite. Foley is also an enthusiastic student of earlier art history, and he has credited Michelangelo, and the Italian Mannerists, Tintoretto and Il Rosso Fiorentino, as influences.
One valuable practice Foley learned from this early period of expressive work is to remain open and to value and follow incidental “accidents” in the process of working. Foley’s drawing teacher was John Woodrow Wilson, who created the powerful bronze bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the U. S. Capitol rotunda. He imparted to David the desire and the skills to draw with clear, incisive lines. This is a practice that is particularly apparent in David Foley’s sketchbook drawings. They have a Precisionist quality about them. It is in his sketchbooks that the seed of each painting is conceived and worked up, slowly and sometimes with variations on a theme covering many pages. One example is the beautiful painting, Interior with Philodendron. It was preceded by many drawings as Foley worked towards a composition for the canvas. He began by doing conventional sketches of the leaves of the plant, but the resulting painting is full of transgressive formal interpolations that create an alternate reality.
Wilson had studied with Fernand Léger in Paris, and it is tempting to imagine that there are echoes of Léger through Wilson in Foley’s choice of a Cubist paradigm in his compositions. But, it is Paul Cézanne’s work, Giorgio de Chirico’s early Metaphysical streetscapes and still lifes, and Joan Miró’s early Surrealist landscapes and portraits for which David Foley has particular affinities. Though we might detect some Miró in Bedroom Still Life or Self-Portrait, or Cézanne in 98-01 Still Life, Foley’s paintings are deeply personal and unlike anything else in Provincetown or elsewhere.
As a complement to the exhibition David Foley has curated a number of artworks from PAAM’s permanent collection that are meaningful to him artistically and personally. Richard Baker’s hand-painted sign, Billy’s (1990), for Billy Forlenza’s restaurant, and Edwin Dickinson’s Still Life with Guitar (1914) resonate stylistically with Foley’s own still life compositions. An eloquent personal elegy for Foley, who suffered devastating losses during the AIDS epidemic, is Pasquale Natale’s Inverno (1990).
Foley has lived in Provincetown since 1992. With years of experience working at the Schoolhouse Gallery and at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum in curatorial positions, he joined the exhibitions committee and served for 12 years, seven of those years as chairperson. With outstanding achievements in painting and his curatorial achievements over the years David Foley is a vital part of Provincetown’s art history.