Born in Havana, Cuba in 1960, Alberto Rey received his political asylum through Mexico in 1963 and moved to Miami, Florida in 1965. In 1967, his family relocated to Barnesboro, Pennsylvania (2019 inducted into the Northern Cambria Community Hall of Fame). He lived in this small coal-mining town until 1982 when he finished his B.F.A from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (2008 recipient of IUP’s Distinguished Alumni Award) after attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. After graduation, he lived in Boston, Massachusetts for a short period before heading to Miami to work on Christo’s Surrounded Islands Project. He then moved to Hollywood, Florida where he worked at Joan of Arts Studio. He returned north to begin his graduate studies at the University at Buffalo, New York. In 1987, he received his M.F.A. in Drawing and Painting and began traveling throughout Spain, Italy, Morocco and Mexico. The following year while teaching in Lincoln-Sudbury High School, The Art Institute of Boston, New England School of Art and Design, and the Museum of Fine Arts, he enrolled in courses at Harvard University in contemporary art and environmental studies. That same year, he had his first solo exhibition in New York City at the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (MoCHA) and was also selected into the permanent collection of El Museo del Barrio in New York City.
In 1989, he moved to Dunkirk, New York to accept a teaching position at the State University of New York at Fredonia and married Janeil Strong of Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1992, his works were selected into the permanent collections of the Albright-Knox Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Bronx Museum of Art. In 1994, Alberto received the Hagan Young Scholar/Artist Award for distinguished research/creative activity as a junior faculty and the Minority Visiting Scholar’s Award from Central Missouri State University.
In 1996, while at SUNY Fredonia, Rey accepted a position as the Director/Curator at the Chautauqua Center of the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution. Soon afterwards he was appointed to the New York State Council on the Arts and to the Artist’s Advisory Panel of the New York Foundation for the Arts. In 1998, Alberto returned to Cuba for the first time in 36 years. In 2001, Rey received the Kasling Lecturer Award for distinguished research/creative activity as a senior faculty member and in 2003 was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activity. In 2007, the State University of New York’s Board of Trustees promoted Professor Alberto Rey to SUNY Distinguished Professor for Research and Creative Activity, the state university’s highest rank.
His artwork since 1986 has been influenced by his Cuban lineage and his attempt to find a sense of identity in a complex contemporary environment. His abstract work from 1982 through 1992 dealt with issues related to layered memories of Cuban iconography and his American experiences. After 1992, his drawings and paintings incorporated realistic imagery as an attempt to make clear connections between his past concerns and art history, regionalism, and his bi-cultural concerns.
Since his relocation to western New York in 1989, he also performed extensive research on local entomology and on the migratory and biological sensibilities of the regional steelhead. In 2000, his reflections on contemporary society started to incorporate environmental issues, perspectives in contemporary art theory and art history, biology and society’s disconnections with nature. At that point, he also began to work in film and video. His research took him throughout the United States, Wales, England, Isle de Saintes (Antiqua), Aruba, Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Iceland and Italy.
In 2014, the first book outlining Rey’s work, Life Streams – Alberto Rey’s Cuban and American Art, was published by SUNY Press in conjunction with his solo museum exhibition at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center in Buffalo.
In 2016, Alberto wrote and illustrated his first book about the holiest and most polluted river in Nepal,Complexities of Water: Biological Regionalism: Bagmati River, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. The Nepal project also included a website, documentary and exhibition.
Alberto’s paintings can be found in over twenty museum collections and have been in around 200 exhibitions. His films/videos have been screened internationally and his illustrated articles and artwork have graced the covers and pages of Gray’s Sporting Journal, Art of Angling Journal, Fish and Fly Magazine, American Angler, Saltwater Fisherman, Angler’s Journal and Buffalo Spree. A list of essays, reviews and other details about his accomplishments can be found under vitae.
He has also combined this recent research with his interest in sharing the spirituality of fly fishing to become an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide (finalist for the 2020 Orvis’s Freshwater Guide of the Year Award) and the Founder and Director of the Children in the Stream/ 4H Youth Fly Fishing Program.
Alberto Rey and his family now live in Fredonia where he works in his studio/barn, guides on the steelhead stream behind his home and continues to teach in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media at the State University of New York at Fredonia.
For more information on his work, you can click here to view Alberto’s lecture on his work which was presented at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA.
If you would like more information on Alberto Rey, you can also go to the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s “Living Legacy Project”. Feel free to contact him at home at 716.410.7003 or send him an email here.