University at Buffalo
Department of


Art & Design

Art History

Visual Studies

The Measure of All Things: Rethinking Humanism through Art


The Measure of All Things: Rethinking Humanism through Art
October 13 – December 10, 2016
Opening Reception: Thursday, October 13th, 5:00–7:00pm
Department of Art Gallery
B45 Center for the Arts

An exhibition curated by UB Department of Art Visual Resource Curator Natalie Fleming & Department of Art MFA Student Van Tran Nguyen

The ancient philosopher Protagoras is most famous for his claim: “Of all things the measure is Man” and today, Western societies continue to promote anthropocentrism, an approach to the world that assumes humans are the principal species of the planet. We naturalize a scale of worth, in which beings that most resemble our own forms or benefit us are valued over those that do not.

The philosophy of humanism has been trumpeted as the hallmark of a civilized society, founded on the unquestioned value of humankind defining not only our economic, political, religious, and social systems, but also our ethical code. However, artists recently have questioned whether humanism has actually lived up to its promises and made the world a better place for humankind. Are we better off privileging humans above all else or could there be other, preferable, ways to value life? With the continued prevalence of violent crimes, even genocide, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we see the ways in which the discourse of humanism falters, as groups are targeted through rhetoric reducing them to the subhuman, and therefore disposable. But what if the subhuman, nonhuman, and even the non-animal and material, were reconsidered as objects of worth even if far removed from us?

About the Artists:

Richard Allen (Worcester, United Kingdom)

Richard Allen’s work investigates the agency and theatricality of objects through the making of sound installations, performances, films, essays and publications. He makes sound and visual works with theatrical props, stage hardware, novelty items, instruments, machines, apparatuses and artifacts that play with how narratives and animations are formed between objects, sounds and spectators. He has presented work at the National Review of Live Art (Glasgow), Mayfest (Bristol), Chapter Arts Centre (Cardiff), and Oriel Moystn (Llandudno). He has published on the bio-objects of Tadeusz Kantor, the scenographic landscapes of Philippe Quesne and Vivarium Studio and recently edited an edition of the Performance Research journal On Anthropomorphism with Dr. Shaun May. He is currently developing a site-based audio project in response to a number of abandoned Little Chef locations throughout the UK and has written an article about Katrina Palmer’s site-specific audio walk The Loss Adjusters for an issue of the Theatre and Performance Design Journal (Routledge) on ‘good vibrations’ in sound design. He is a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Worcester School of Art (UK) where he is the co-founder of the Fabrication Research Group.


Nava Atlas (New Paltz, New York)      

Atlas is an artist who does text-driven work, and a writer who incorporates images and found materials to create atmospheric reading experiences. In these contexts, she often looks through the lens of history to examine the ways in which media, language, and cultural constructs push long-held beliefs against the desire for changes in the status quo. In her writing and art, she looks at a range of social justice issues that matter to her including women’s lives, civil rights, and animal welfare.

Her work has been shown nationally in museums, galleries, and alternative art spaces including the Wichita Art Museum, Suffolk Museum, Purdue University, Duke University, Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, Everson Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and many others. Her limited edition books are housed in many collections of artist’s books, including the libraries of MOMA (NY), National Museum of Women in the Arts (Wash., DC), Brooklyn Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), plus dozens of artist’s book collections at universities and colleges nationwide.

A permanent archive of her papers, detailing her work as an exhibiting artist, book artist, author, and food writer is housed at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, a division of the Rubenstein Library at Duke University in Durham, NC.

Michael Beitz (Boulder, Colorado)

Michael Beitz is an Assistant Professor at the University at Colorado Boulder. He received his MFA from the University of Buffalo in 2009. Originally from New York State, Beitz spent a number of years working as a furniture maker for artists and designers while continuing his studio practice. Beitz creates large-scale installations and sculpture inspired by the social, personal, and material functions of furniture. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums, among them the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Banksy’s Dismaland in the UK and the Madison (Wisconsin) Museum of Contemporary Art. He has also been commissioned to create public artwork for the University at Buffalo as part of an effort to improve the UB experience for students by developing small, comfortable spaces throughout the campuses.

Maria Bilbao·Herrera  (Caracas, Venezuela)   

Maria Bilbao-Herrera is an artist and photographer born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela.She received her BA in Interior Design from the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute, and her MA in Art Direction from Elisava School of Design in Barcelona. Upon graduation, Maria attended the International Center of Photography in New York, where she was awarded the prize for excellence Rita K Hillman.

Maria is a Venezuelan artist/educator. She explores media and new technologies within the medium of photography and video, performance and installation. In addition to her own art practice, she is an educator in the field of the image creation, understanding and showcasing. Her works have been exhibited in Caracas, Madrid, New York, Barcelona, Berlin, Brazil and is part of private collections in NY, Bogotá, Florence and Caracas.

Tanya Chaly (New York, New York)

Tanya Chaly was born in Sydney, Australia and currently lives and works in New York City. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and went on to complete post-graduate studies majoring in painting from the University Of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts in Sydney, Australia. She enrolled as a Bachelor of Art History at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France where she was appointed a teaching position at the Ecole Media D’Art, in Chalon sur-Saone. She has been based in New York City since 2007.

She has exhibited widely in both group and solo shows and has been the recipient of a number of awards and prizes. Recent solo shows include LaGuardia Galleries of Fine Art, CUNY, Miller Gallery Alvernia University, McCarthy Art Gallery St Michael’s College, The Explorer’s Club New York, and the University of Connecticut Art Gallery. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at The Art Gallery of Ballarat, Australia, Drive-By Projects, MA, Idaho State University, Arizona State University, CAP Artspace, NY and Five Points Gallery, CT among many others. In 2014 she received the New York Explorer’s Club Artist-in-Exploration Award (sponsored By Rolex), a $25,000 prize given to an artist to produce a body of work out in the field. Other grants and awards include residencies at Brooklyn Art Cluster 2017, Art of Science Residency The Ligo Project NY, a NSW Ministry for the Arts Gunnery Studio, Australia, the Saltonstall Foundation NY, the Vermont Studio Center and The Zeta Orionis Fellowship in 2017. Her work can be found in the public collections of: The Explorer’s Club New York, The Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, NSW, Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery, Queensland, Nortel Australia, Crown Casino, Melbourne and other private and corporate collections in Australia, the UK and the United States.

Victoria Fuller (Chicago, Illinois)   

Victoria Fuller is a Chicago sculptor, painter, and natural science illustrator. Her educational background includes studies at the San Francisco Art Institute, Parson’s Paris Program in Paris, France, and a graduate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Fuller has been honored with fellowships from the Colorado Council for the Arts and Humanities and the Illinois Arts Council with appearances in galleries, museums, and public spaces across the United States. She has been awarded commissioned projects from private and community organizations such as Disney’s ESPN Zone, St. Louis’ Arts in Transit, and Seattle’s Sound Transit where she recently completed her 35’ bronze sculpture, Global Garden Shovel. Fuller is best known for Shoe of Shoes, a large-scale shoe-shaped sculpture comprised of thousands of aluminum high-heels in front of Brown Shoe Company.

Helen Heß (Berlin, Germany)

Heß is a sound artist, composer, sound designer and engineer with a Bachelor of Science in sound and music production from Högskolan Dalarna, Sweden and a Master of Arts in Sound Studies from Universität der Künste, Berlin.

Günes-Hélène Isitan (Montreal, Canada) 

Born in Turkey in 1978, Günes-Hélène Isitan holds a graduate diploma in Actual Arts Practice (Sherbrooke University, 2016); she currently lives in Montreal (Qc, Canada). Her professional transdisciplinary practice, anchored in biomedia arts, is an interweaving of visual and interactive art, life sciences and philosophy. She has exhibited in galleries in Canada, the US and in Europe, has been featured in books and magazines and her works are part of private collections. She has been supported by the Quebec Arts Council, and is represented both by Galerie uNo (Quebec, Canada) and the SciArt Center (New York, USA).

Katharina Poggendorf-Kakar (Goa, India)

Katharina Poggendorf-Kakar studied comparative religion, anthropology and Indian art history at the Free University, Berlin, where she received her Ph.D. in 2001. In 2012, she began to work full time on her art. With her debut solo show in Delhi (2015) she received recognition from leading curators in India and abroad.

Kakar plays with different materials to create new visual bodies that address the changing global landscape of identities. She probes what is underneath the surface of cultural beliefs and our contradicting patterns of behavior. Her work emerges from her academic base in anthropology.

Verena Andrea Prenner (Seebenstein, Austria)   

Prenner is a sociologist and photographer, born and raised in Austria.   She finished her Masters in sociology with a thesis titled “Heaven on Earth – Sex Workers in the Field of Tension between Social Stigma and Necessary Service”. It comprised an interview and photography series with sex workers in brothels in the Viennese red light district.

In 2013, she moved to Israel and Palestine, first living and working in Tel Aviv and then moving to a refugee camp in Palestine. During her time there, she worked on artistic photography projects and photographed Muslim weddings along with a Palestinian photographer. She also wrote a weekly column, “Notes from the Middle East” for an Austrian newspaper, which contained articles about society, culture, art and life in a conflict region.

Since February 2014, she has been completing art projects as well as commissions in Austria and in the Middle East.

Alyce Santoro (Fort Davis, Texas)  

Santoro is an intermedia conceptual/sound artist with a background in biology and scientific illustration. While she began her career intending to make visible the invisible wonders of science and nature, she quickly became interested in exploring the cultural phenomenon that causes these fields to be viewed as separate, and in the ways that social imaginaries are formed and can shift.

She is interested in the potential of sound as a medium that can influence both time and space, and in the notion that by shaping atmosphere, sound can affect the ways we think and feel on an individual and collective basis.

She refers to many of her multimedia works as philosoprops – devices used to demonstrate a concept, challenge perception, or spark a dialogue. The philosoprops offer subtle and sometimes deceivingly playful critiques of the foibles of highly literal, logical, objective, and compartmentalized thinking.

Her visual and sound pieces have appeared in over 50 exhibitions internationally related to innovative textiles, experimental musical scores, and social action and ecology. A contributor to and the author of Philosoprops: A Unified Field Guide, her written works often explore the notion that shifting some common assumptions about “the way things are” may lead to a more just, healthy, and peaceful world.

Rachel Shelton (Buffalo, New York)

Rachel Shelton received her B.F.A. from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2011 with a concentration in Printmaking. Her work, centered around this practice, also includes bookmaking, drawing, enameling, and sculpture. Rachel is slated to receive her M.F.A. from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2017. At both the undergraduate and graduate level, she has studied the methods and theories used in the fields of Archaeology and Anthropology to gain an overhead perspective of the evolution and organizational structures of human populations.

Rachel’s recent work lies somewhere between diagram and abstraction. While examining our earthly relationships, it aims to situate our experience and existence in perspective with the vast universe beyond our planet. Given our awareness of being few among many, why do we still feel entitled, in power? Why does this understanding of our comparative scale not mitigate the tendency to obsess over things that ultimately don’t matter? Does this perspective instill fear, or might it, for some, have a calming effect? The work is not the presentation of a settled philosophy, but the chronology of research as process as final product.

James Eric Simpson (Buffalo, New York)

Since 2013, J. Eric Simpson has staged four solo exhibitions where he cross-pollinates his interests in philosophy, religion, and consumerism in the United States. By seeing similarities in these topics, he wonders how these social structures shape human behavior and the ideologies we construct about the world around us.

In the fall of 2014 he attended Land Arts of the American West at Texas Tech University with architect Chris Taylor. Simpson’s artwork has been published in the 2014 edition of Harbinger, Student Journal of Literature and Art and the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts: The Little Black Book in 2011. Simpson received his BFA in Studio Art from Texas Tech University in May 2013; he is currently a second year MFA student in Studio Art at the University at Buffalo.

Michael Salvatore Tierney (Los Angeles, California) 

Tierney is a Los Angeles based photographer. He has exhibited extensively in Los Angeles galleries and museums as well as in major art fairs in the United States and Europe. His work is included in many private and public collections throughout the country.

Tierney’s photographic work deals with space and place, temporal and physical (as described by Yi-Fu Tuan), hybrid cultures, and the hypothetical concept of a Ecumenopolis, a city made of the whole world, resulting from a fusion of urban areas and megalopoleis forming a single continuous worldwide city.

Van Tran Nguyen (Buffalo, New York)

Van Tran Nguyen is a Vietnamese American artist and a second year MFA student in the Department of Art, University at Buffalo. Her interdisciplinary works are performance, video and mixed media installations that ask questions about the significance of matter in a cultural context.

Patty Wallace (Buffalo, New York)

Patty Wallace is a photographer, painter, and media artist whose work has appeared in galleries and museums across the world as well as in various publications and on television.

Wallace studied visual art and media at the University at Buffalo, where she earned a BA in Studio Art and an MA in Humanities. She has exhibited her work at various galleries and museums including CEPA Gallery, Big Orbit Gallery, and Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, all in Buffalo, NY, Kunsthaus am Hofgarten Gallery, Munich, German, and the Puffin Room Gallery in New York City. Her photography is in the collections of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Castellani Art Museum, Niagara University, NY, and Light Work, Syracuse, NY. Wallace has received many awards and grants from organizations including the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Benton Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her professional experience includes photographing for the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Brooklyn Museum.


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