Biological Regionalism: Niagara River, Canada / USA
“It is crucial to inform the public on the importance of our region in America’s cultural and natural heritage and the challenges that the Niagara River faces.” –Alberto Rey
Biological Regionalism: Niagara River, Western New York by Alberto Rey explores the complexities of the Niagara River’s past and present. Utilizing lushly illustrated narratives, Rey capitalizes on his unique visual language to speak to the cultural importance of the Niagara in American popular culture and how that has changed over time. These large-scale paintings reflect on the river’s historical significance to the Underground Railroad, importance to Native American culture, and the pollution of the river and the communities along its banks.
Rey’s Biological Regionalism is representative of his 40-year artistic journey documenting human relationships to natural waterways and how these relationships have a direct effect on the flora and fauna of regions across the globe. Building on past, present, and future, this work is guided through what he has termed, “a devotional painting approach.”
For this large-scale installation in the CAM’s Main Gallery, Rey turns his attention to the Niagara River and the unique attributes of the Niagara Gorge. Each bespoke painting explores facets of the Niagara River’s rich history and challenges it faces, past and present.
This exhibition follows the trajectory of projects including Critical Endangered Palms of Cuba (2021-22), a project that explored the endangered native palm species of Cuba; Biological Regionalism: Oswego River and Lake Ontario (2019-2022), which examined the history of the Oswego River, its challenges, and the prospects for improvement in the future; and The Lost Beauty: Iceberg Series (2021), an investigation into the disappearing glacial patterns around the Icelandic region.
Biological Regionalism: Battenkill, Vermont, USA
Alberto Rey investigates the cultural landscapes of both his past and the present investigations in this major exhibition of his work at the Elizabeth de C. Wilson Museum, Southern Vermont Art Center in Manchester, Vermont.
The exhibition debuts his site-specific installation of the “¡ Battenkill !” project, including large-scale paintings that feature distinguishing natural elements of the Battenkill, a nearly 60-mile long river that runs from southern Vermont to the Hudson River. This project is one of many that Rey has created in response to the growing disconnect between people and the natural world as well as the increasing vulnerability of our climate. He hopes the work will renew a sense of connection between the viewer, nature, and culture.
Part of the exhibition will include Rey’s preparatory work, such as drawings, notes, maps, and photographs of him drawing and fishing, taken during his site visits to the Battenkill. His expansive research over the last 18-months has included investigations into local history and entomology, biological cycles and history of regional salmonids (trout), stream restoration, Native American history and the role of the Battenkill in culture. He combines this research with a personal interest in fly fishing. For over twenty years Rey has been the founder and director of a youth fly fishing program, Children in the Stream, and is the recipient of the 2021 Orvis Fly Fishing Guide of the Year.
Cultural Landscapes also includes Rey’s investigations into his Cuban heritage and his bi-cultural identity. Born in Havana in 1960, Rey received his political asylum through Mexico in 1963 and moved to the United States in 1965. During his childhood, he assimilated into American culture, but later in life, started an ongoing exploration and reclamation of the culture he had once separated from and the country he did not remember. On view are selections from multiple projects: Autogeographical Series (1985-87), Madonnas of Western New York (1991-93), Binary Forms (1990-92), Icons Series (1993-95), Last Balsas (Rafts) and Balsas Artifacts Series (1995-99), Appropriated Memories Series (1996-97), Cuban Portraits (1997-99), Aesthetics of Death (2006-2016), Extinct Birds Project (2016-19), Lost Beauty: Icebergs (2019-21), and Critically Endangered Palms of Cuba (current).
Native American Fish and Wildlife Society
Summer Youth Practicum
In collaboration with the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society, United States Forest Service and Orvis, Jason Dilworth and I created a publication to document the week-long Summer Youth Practicum where a dozen high school students from nine national tribes came to Colorado to participate in leaderships programs, outdoor enrichment, cultural awareness and professional development. I also provided drawing workshops, stream biology sessions and fly fishing lessons.
Critical Endangered Palms of Cuba
In 2020, long-time friend, landscape designer, and palm collector, Pat Tierney, passed away unexpectedly. His love for plants was contagious and the following year, while web surfing for research books for upcoming projects, a recommended link popped up about Paul Craft’s book, The Palms of Cuba. After reading his book and several other publications and academic articles, I was shocked to learn about half of the palm species, that are found nowhere else but in Cuba, are threatened or endangered. The cause for their demise is the spread of agriculture and commercial development and the effects of hurricanes and other natural causes on the remaining population.
This series documents the critically endangered palm species found only in Cuba, that are on the verge of extinction. I see this work as an extension of my emotional connection to the floral and fauna investigated in the Biological Regionalism Series, the Extinct Birds Project, the Lost Beauty Projects and the Aesthetics of Death.
Biological Regionalism: Oswego River and Lake Ontario, Central New York, USA
The Biological Regionalism: Oswego River and Lake Ontario, Central New York, USA
exhibition and publication examine the history of the Oswego River, its challenges, and the prospects for its improvement in the future. The project also documents a few of the endangered and threatened plants of New York from the herbarium collection from the Rice Creek Field Station at the State University of New York at Oswego in Oswego, NY. This site-specific project was created for the campus’s Tyler Art Gallery. A publication accompanied the exhibition.
Lost Beauty Projects
Lost Beauty: Icebergs
The Lost Beauty: Iceberg Series started in 2003 on my second trip to Iceland when I visited the lagoon for the first time with a friend, Ray McLain. Ray and I were on our way to fly fish the Breiðdalsá when we came across Jökulsárlón. It was a shocking sight to see the large icebergs floating so close to the shoreline. There was also something sad about the 2,500 years ago icebergs slowly dying in front of us. Each seemed to possess its own identity and spirit. I took photographs of the icebergs thinking that somewhere down the road I might produce a body of work in dedication to them. A decade passed before I returned with my family to visit a new group of icebergs floating in the lagoon. The mood was more joyous as I was able to experience the wonder of nature through the eyes of my children and wife. I was on a writing assignment for a magazine so I was able to arrange a private tour of the lagoon on a small inflatable zodiac which brought me right next to the icebergs. As the ice sculptures loomed overhead, we could see the remainder of the iceberg under the raft. There was a sense of danger and excitement as we approached each iceberg since we knew that they could capsize at any moment and crush us into the freezing water. After the initial panic wore off, there was a sense of peace and connectedness to the icebergs as I realized that this would be the last time that I would see each iceberg again. I continued to take photographs reaffirming my desire to create a series of paintings and, perhaps, a book in homage to them and as an educational tool to bring some more awareness to the causes that were affecting this region bordering the Arctic Circle. Breiđamerkurjökull glacier has responded more severely than many other regions from around the world due to unstable climates and rain events. It has lost over 11 % of its landmass which is one of the highest amounts lost from all glaciers in the world. The Lost Beauty: Icebergs website documents the project in more detail.
The Sea of Cataclysm poem about the paintings by Kathleen McCoy
Lost Beauty: I and II
Lost Beauty: Part I and II was a two-part collaboration project between the Anderson Gallery at the University of Buffalo (Buffalo, NY) and the Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo, NY). Lost Beauty: Part I exhibition which included the Extinct Birds Project was presented at the Anderson Gallery at the University of Buffalo (Buffalo, NY) in the summer of 2019 with the support of the Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo, NY), the Roger Tory Institute of Natural History (Jamestown, NY), Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University (Boston, MA) and the Stanley Museum (the State University of New York at Fredonia (Fredonia, NY) and the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Ithaca, NY). Lost Beauty: Part II was presented in the fall of 2020 at the Buffalo Museum of Science (see below for more information about this project). Lost Beauty: Part I featured paintings, audio files, videos, specimens from the Extinct Birds Project, and informational plaques documenting the history and extinction of 17 extinct bird species. The Extinct Birds Project also included a book and website detailing the lives and history of seventeen extinct bird species, collection methods, politics of extinction classification, and biographical information on the collectors who acquired the extinct specimens.
Lost Beauty: II – The Art of the Museum Stories
Lost Beauty: Part II – The Art of the Museum Stories exhibition and publication was presented in the fall of 2021 at the Buffalo Museum of Science (Buffalo, NY) in collaboration with the Anderson Gallery at the University of Buffalo (Buffalo, NY). The exhibition features very small but significant artifacts and specimens that might otherwise be overlooked in the museum’s extensive collection. The large paintings and accompanying book outline the importance of these diminutive objects and the process in creating the exhibition.
Extinct Birds Project
On the morning of June 30 in 2015, Jane Johnson, the Director of Exhibits & Special Collections at Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York, began her tour of the museum’s archive. After walking into one of the several climate-controlled rooms in the museum, Jane started pulling out long deep shelves from the metal cabinet. I was unprepared for what I was about to experience. On the clean white paper that covers the drawer were the bodies of seven extinct birds and around a dozen other threatened species. I was transfixed by the skins. A tremendous veil of sadness laced every one of the specimens and countless questions immediately ran through my mind: How did these get here? How did they get the birds? I guess I’m glad they were collected, so I could experience this. Should they have been collected if they went extinct? Where were these birds collected? What were their lives like? Who collected them and how? What were the collectors thinking when they collected them? Have the bodies been gutted and filled with cotton? How do they do that? Why am I not as moved by the other birds in the other drawers?
The following three years were spent creating the paintings for the series, writing and illustrating the book and designing the website, Extinct Birds Project, which archives the entire project. Here’s a link to the RTPI exhibition.
Biological Regionalism: Bagmati River, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Center, Patan Museum, Patan, Nepal
Siddhartha Gallery, Kathmandu, Nepal
March 11 – November 26, 2016
In 2014, I had a solo museum exhibition at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, New York (please see next project below for more information). It was during this installation that I was approached to consider doing a similar project about the Bagmati River that flows through the middle of Kathmandu, Nepal. I was excited about extending my body of work beyond the Western Hemisphere and working with a culturally diverse community. After initial discussions with professionals, museum staff, and community members in Kathmandu, it was clear that there was a great deal of interest in me starting a new project investigating the Bagmati River. I was granted a residency at the Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Center in the Patan Museum and a solo exhibition at the Siddhartha Gallery in Kathmandu. Jason Dilworth joined the venture early in 2016 and his work has been integral to the project’s success. During Jason’s and my first trip to Kathmandu in March of 2016, we were able to strengthen past connections to the project while building a larger network of individuals and groups committed to improving conditions in the Kathmandu Valley and the communities outside the valley who live along the river. The project which included the publication of a book, a video documentary, an exhibition, and a website that archives the project, www.bagmatiriverartproject.com, premiered in November of 2016 in the Siddhartha Gallery in Kathmandu.
Biological Regionalism: Scajaquada Creek, Erie County, New York, USA
Burchfield-Penney Art Center
Buffalo, New York
February 14 to May 18, 2014
The solo museum exhibition includes a series of large paintings, water samples, and related data, historical information, ecological research, large maps, video projections, process work samples, related programming and presentations and a selection of Alberto’s past works. The installation explores the history and the present condition of the Scajaquada Creek that flows through three municipalities before it is diverted through a three-mile tunnel underneath the city of Buffalo. “The objective of the exhibition is to bring the language of both art and science to bear upon a complex of cultural, social, economic, technological, and geopolitical issues,” said Anthony Bannon, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Burchfield Penney and research professor at SUNY Buffalo State.
Video – Biological Regionalism: Leech, Scajaquada Creek, Erie, County, New York, USA
Video – Biological Regionalism: Tunnel, Scajaquada Creek, Erie, County, New York, USA
Time Lapse of Wall Map
Water Sample Data, Graphs and History
Pollution Sites on 70 Foot Wall Map
Fly Tying Programming
Television Coverage #1
Television Coverage #2
Television Coverage /Investigative Report
Exhibition Review #1
Exhibition Review #2
Presentation at Museum and in Classroom to Nichols School Students
Nichols Newsletter and Movie
Exhibition at Weeks Gallery, Jamestown Community Gallery, Jamestown, New York
Weeks Gallery Installation Images
Weeks Gallery Lecture Images
Weeks Gallery Curriculum Handout
Weeks Gallery Student’s Exhibition Perspective
Poem about one of the Works in the Exhibition
Biological Regionalism: Bayous, Lakes and Rivers, Monroe, Louisiana, USA
April 5th – 10th, 2012 (residency) and
October 23, 2013 – February 8, 2014 (exhibition/lecture)
The Masur Museum of Art invited Alberto Rey for a series of events during his residency and solo exhibition. Rey presented two lectures, a children’s workshop, an adult sketchbook workshop at Black Bayou Wildlife Refuge and hosted a fly tying demonstration with local fly tiers. His exhibition presented a series of paintings, videos, watercolor herbariums and jars of fauna and floral samples. A catalog of the process and artwork was published.
Video – Biological Regionalism: Black Bayou Wildlife Refuge, Monroe, Louisiana, USA
Video – Biological Regionalism: Horseshoe Lake, Monroe, Louisiana, USA Video
Images from Sketchbook Workshop
Exhibition Informational Panels
Biological Regionalism: Lake Erie Tributary, Sheridan, New York, USA
Extremaduran and Latin American Museum of Contemporary Art (MEIAC)
May 26th – July 15th, 2013
This solo museum video exhibition included 5 videos from past projects plus a new site-specific video representing a 180-degree view of a unique scene in a rural part of the United States. This panoramic view was created with five videos. This installation of five videos was entitled “Moments of Wonder” (Mementos de Asombro). These short videos were synchronized to start on top of the water and go down into the water together. Then it would come back out of the water at the same time. The footage was edited in slow motion to force the viewer to slow down in their movements as they walked around the installation while allowing them to view specific elements in regions that would not be available in real-time. The abstractions that occurred during the projections provided an additional aesthetic element to the documentation. Maps were also presented alongside each of the videos in the exhibition to note their locations around the world. The installation provided a link to historical investigations in art, the attention given to the environmentalism in society and art and created a connection between the viewer and environments from around the world.
Video – Biological Regionalism: Lake Erie Tributary, Sheridan, New York, USA – Video 3 of 5 in 180-degree projection
Biological Regionalism: Lower Falls, Genesee River, Rochester, New York, USA
Fourth Rochester Biennial Invitational
Grand Gallery, Rochester, NY
December 2009/ July 25–September 26, 2010
This exhibition includes a site-specific installation of two paintings and a video from the Biological Regionalism Series and three paintings from the Aesthetics of Death Series. These works from the Biological Regionalism Series investigate the historically-significant section of the Genesee River above Seth Green Island and the migrating steelhead trout species from Lake Ontario.
Video – Biological Regionalism: Lower Falls, Genesee River, Rochester, New York, USA
Artist’s comments about the installation
Transcript of artist’s comments
Biological Regionalism: Ellicott Creek, Amherst, New York, USA
Lightwell Gallery, Center for the Arts, University of Buffalo, NY
August 2009/ March-May 2010
This solo exhibition at The University of Buffalo is a continuation of his Biological Regionalism series in which he attempts to re-establish a connection to local landscapes and wildlife by documenting fish species found in bodies of water near the exhibition venue through video and traditional piscatorial painting. This exhibition examines Ellicott Creek located on the edge of UB’s north campus. The underwater source material for the paintings and large-scale projections captures the opalescent colors and balletic movements of largemouth bass during their annual migration and the constantly moving and changing environment where they are found. The three videos document the environment above the water, in the stream and the stream bed below the migrating largemouth bass. A publication of process and artwork was published.
Video- Biological Regionalism: Ellicott Creek, Amherst, New York, USA
Ellicott Creek Brochure
Biological Regionalism: Weinberg Creek, Bemus Point, New York, USA
Bemus Point, NY
Spring 2010 – 2011
This project documents a specific section of Weinberg Creek through four seasons.
Biological Regionalism: Big Mary’s Creek, Vesuvius, Virginia, USA
“Life, Death and Beauty”
Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA
May / October 2008
For a few days in early May of 2008, Alberto completed the first of a two-part residency at Washington and Lee University. W and L students, gallery director, Dinah Ryan, and Alberto met with three biologists to explore the plants and native fish found in a secluded section of Big Mary’s Creek in the town of Vesuvius which is located a few miles outside of campus. The students documented their findings with their cameras and sketchbooks. The following day, the students used their reference material during a drawing workshop. The students created 22 x 30 inch drawings that depicted their experiences at Big Mary’s Creek. Upon returning back to his studio, Alberto worked on two Biological Regionalism: Big Mary’s Creek paintings, a video and a new body of site-specific work for the Aesthetic of Death Series. These new works were exhibited in a solo exhibition in October of 2008 at the Staniar Gallery at W and L University. The student drawings from the drawing workshop in the spring were presented in an adjacent gallery. Alberto completed the second part of his residency during the week of the exhibition’s opening. He presented a lecture on his work from the past 20 years as well as another lecture discussing the connection between his videos and his paintings. Alberto also took two groups of students to Wood’s Creek (located on campus) to create sketches and collect samples of the environment. He then brought the students back to the studios where he presented drawing workshops that incorporated the reference materials they had collected from nature. Catalog of process and artwork is published.
Video- Biological Regionalism: Big Mary’s Creek, Vesuvius, Virginia, USA
Images From Big Mary’s Creek Field Trip
Images From Big Mary’s Creek Drawing Workshop
Images from Wood’s Creek field trip and workshop
Alberto’s lecture about his work
“Life, Death and Beauty” exhibition catalog
Biological Regionalism: Atlantic Cod, Salem, Massachusetts, USA
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
During a week-long residency at the museum, Alberto presented a video briefly describing his past work and its connection to the region. The video also outlined the influence of the Atlantic cod’s influence on the economy on the Northeast. Along with the video, he also exhibited sketchbooks, color studies and photographs used to create his paintings. The video created background information for the eight-foot painting that he created of an Atlantic cod. He also presented daily drawing and painting workshops that incorporated objects from the museum’s collections and fish species that were indigenous to specific regions of the United States.
Video – Biological Regionalism: Atlantic Cod, Salem, Massachusetts, USA
Painting and Studio Images
Drawing from Sketchbook and Workshop Images
Create your own Fish Species Workshop Images
Cascade Range Bulltrout Documentation Project
Alberto was asked by the CRAG Law Center, a law center that supports efforts to protect and sustain the Pacific Northwest’s natural legacy, to work with them in locating and documenting the threatened bull trout of the Cascade Range. During a six-day residency, Alberto explored several rivers with regional experts and they were successful in documenting two examples of the species. Alberto returned to western New York where he used his references from the trip to produce a painting for the CRAG’s publication purposes.
Local Species Project
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Alberto traveled to UVA to work on a residency that brought together the efforts of community and conservation groups, private/public educational programs and university students and staff to create a series of one-of-a-kind illustrated books. The books reflected the images (flowers, insects, fish, etc.) remembered or documented from educational field trips to a local stream that was home to an endangered brook trout species. A book of the artwork was published.
Artwork in museum’s permanent collection
More information on residency
Article about exhibition
The Local Species Project – People
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