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Biological Regionalism: Selected Streams from Northern Chautauqua County, New York

Posted on: January 20th, 2012 by alrey

The following paintings were created for the exhibition at the Octagon Gallery at the Patterson Library in Westfield from March 2-30, 2012. The reception will occur from 7-9pm on Friday, March 2 and a lecture about the work in the exhibition will be presented on Thursday, March 15th at 7pm.

In past blog entries, I have include some process shots of the development some of these paintings. I will include links to these blog entries underneath each of the images of the artwork.

Biological Regionalism:
Chautauqua Falls, Westfield, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″
Link to more information / blog entry

Biological Regionalism: Selected Streams from Northern Chautauqua County, New York
When I first settled in this area in 1989, I remember hearing stories about the salmon runs in Canadaway Creek. It was all very intriguing but I had a new job that I needed to secure and it was six years later before I began researching the migrating fish species in the local tributaries of Lake Erie. When I did begin the research, I concentrated my efforts on the history of Canadaway Creek, the introduction of fish species into the Great Lakes, the history of towns located along the creek, regional geology, entomology, weather patterns affects on local fish’s physiology, fish biology and hydrology. Before long, I couldn’t get enough information and soon I began to befriended local biologists, Department of Environmental Conservation officers and local anglers as a way to build my resources. A couple of years later, my obsession led me to start a youth fly fishing program and, soon afterward, I became a fly fishing guide as a way to fund my obsession and to keep me out on the streams.

Biological Regionalism:
Laona Falls, Laona, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″
Link to more information / blog entry

In 2000, after finishing a series of paintings on Cuban and American culture, I was ready to move into a new direction and I began the Biological Regionalism Series. The series incorporated the research I had been acquiring over the previous years and motivated me to investigate and research many other streams in western New York and the Catskills as well as bodies of water in Massachusetts, Florida, Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and also Wales, England, Iceland and Cuba. As my travel and exhibitions opportunities drew me further and further away from my local waters, I found little time to document the specific regional locations where I had logged hundreds of hours studying the stream’s hydraulics, observing the different holding patterns of fish through the year, guiding clients and trying my own fly patterns on migrating fish.

Biological Regionalism:
Risley Falls, Fredonia, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″
Link to more information / blog entry

This exhibition provided me the opportunity to exhibit the work in Patterson Library’s wonderful architecture and collection of paintings and taxidermy specimens. It seemed like a perfect venue to exhibit these devotional paintings of some of my favorite stream locations in this area.

Biological Regionalism:
Arkwright Falls, Arkwright, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″

More information about the Biological Regionalism Series:                                                              
Apart of the research mentioned above, my investigations also included the painters of the Hudson River School of the 19th century and their role in American society. This art movement documented the expanding American landscape and its wilderness for the general public who had little exposure or accessibility to their new environment. The study of biology, botany, geology and art was popular amongst the residents of the new country and piscatorial art and nature painting was considered a form of “high art” during this period. This art form no longer seems innovative in contemporary art although there is a dire need to rediscover the connection between nature and culture. This connection is deteriorating as most of our social and economic reliance has moved to an urban setting.

Biological Regionalism:
Mouth of Corell Creek, Portland, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″

As our culture becomes more homogenized by mass media and consumerism, the one element that remains true to a region is its natural environment. Although we try to manipulate it to fit our needs, most landscapes and their biological inhabitants characterize a region’s nature. It is an omnipresent influence that affects a region’s people, culture and economy. The knowledge of a region’s distinguishing natural elements is being lost as generations continually become more disconnected from a lifestyle that relies on the landscape for survival and for spiritual renewal.

Biological Regionalism:
Glen Mills Falls (Old Portage Road Falls), Westfield, New York
Oils on Plaster
33″ x 48″

The regions investigated in this series are usually a short walk or drive from the exhibition venue. When a viewer experiences the installation, my hope is that they begin to create or recreate a connection to their immediate environment. In past installations of Biological Regionalism Series, I tried to reestablish this connection by reintroducing the fish and landscape that characterize a specific region. For this exhibition, I have concentrated entirely on landscapes or the depiction of the environment as a way to have the area’s resident reconnect with memories from these locations and/or to create new connections to nearby environments. I hope the exhibition can also create opportunities to discuss topics related to historical and contemporary theories of aesthetics, migration of fish species, history of these locations, environmentalism, and geological formations.

While the regions investigated are specific, the issues raised are universal.

 

 

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