Sean Foley is professor of painting and drawing at College of the Atlantic.Sean Foley is professor of painting and drawing at College of the Atlantic.College of the Atlantic painting and drawing professor Sean Foley explores ideas of the monstrous and the grotesque through paintings, drawings, and installations that playfully combine notions of figuration, abstraction and art history into a single “carnivalesque” visual experience.

Foley’s paintings, he said, are like monsters: “messy, captivating, silly, but irrevocably prodigious creations unconcerned with being anything in particular.”

His aim, as both artist and teacher, is to provoke imagination and facilitate a healthy sense of wonder, where all the senses are engaged, and where one is comfortable in the midst of “not knowing.” And as COA students work to better understand, through the human ecological perspective, their relationships with their surroundings, this exploration of wonder remains a key part of their experience, according to COA president Darron Collins ’92.

“Sean’s teaching, curation, and practice explore the role of wonder in all our lives - not focused and pragmatic curiosity, but wonder,” Collins said. “Rekindling wonder and a sense of reverence for the world around us may be the most crucial, most elemental requisite for improving the relationship between human beings and their environments.”

Foley comes to COA from The Ohio State University, where he was a visiting associate art professor and senior lecturer. Previous to his time in Ohio, Foley was the chair of painting at Maine College of Art, in Portland.

Sean Foley, “Totem,” 2008, mixed media on paper.Sean Foley, “Totem,” 2008, mixed media on paper.

He has shown nationally at Anna Kustera and Mary Ryan Gallery in New York, Irvine Contemporary in Washington DC, and Allston Skirt Gallery in Boston. Museum shows include the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), DeCordova Museum, Portland Museum of Art (Maine) and the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York.

Foley is the co-curator of “Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomenon of Wonder,” an exhibition currently on display at Mass MoCA.

Foley’s recent honors include residencies at the Kohler Art / Industry program and a Rauschenberg Foundation Residency. He has also been recipient of a Golden Foundation Fellowship, Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship, and Jurors and Purchase prizes from the Portland Museum of Art Biennial exhibitions. Foley earned an MFA from The Ohio State University and a BFA from the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis.

He began teaching at COA in 2015.

College of the Atlantic

Founded in 1969, College of the Atlantic was the first college in the U.S. to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty enriches the liberal arts tradition through a distinctive educational philosophy—human ecology. College of the Atlantic is ranked America’s greenest college by the Sierra Club in their 2016 Cool Schools report.

A human ecological perspective integrates knowledge from all academic disciplines and from personal experience to investigate—and ultimately improve—the relationships between human beings and our social, natural, built, and technological environments. The human ecological perspective guides all aspects of education, research, activism, and interactions among the college’s students, faculty, staff, and trustees.

The College of the Atlantic community encourages, prepares, and expects students to gain expertise, breadth, values, and practical experience necessary to achieve individual fulfillment and to help solve problems that challenge communities everywhere.