Today we’d like to introduce you to Lynda Ray.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I grew up in the Boston area where my father would take me and my brothers to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on Sundays. At the MFA, I saw large paintings and sculptures mostly from artists who were no longer alive.
I grew up drawing, painting and constructing. My father built our house as I watched from the sandbox. My older brother became a fine cabinetmaker and builder, and as a young man made a canoe in our garage. My mother sewed and knit and I got involved with making crafts inspired in part from my constant exposure to various materials. I would combine scraps from other’s projects to make my work.
While growing up, I explored the building sites of new homes and schools going up in my neighborhood and observed the woods and streams were being torn up for new housing. It was very exciting to climb around the buildings’ skeletons and see the daily progress. I have always been interested in nature and the materials around me and asking myself, what’s natural, what’s manmade?
In school, my artistic abilities were recognized, and I was invited to take advanced art classes on Saturdays. It was exciting and affirming to be with other students who had strong visual sensibilities. The school-sponsored trips to museums were key to my artistic development and I remember returning home on the bus at night and seeing everything out the window differently. I noticed the bare lacework of the trees in the winter New England landscape and how they contrasted with the orange sunset and fading light. I felt that art and nature were one and the same, and I was deeply moved by both.
Although I had the ability to render from an early age and received much praise, eventually that style rang hollow for me and began to search for the essence and the why in my work. I attended and later graduated from Massachusetts College of Art. I was the first in my family to attend a four-year college and started in the late 1960s. With the turmoil of the Vietnam War (my brother was deployed 3 times) and my participation in the Anti-War protests and Civil Rights marches and the upheaval in the art history department school was difficult to navigate so I left.
During that time away from school, I continued to paint and raised my children. I returned to Massachusetts College of Art in the mid-1980s and finished my degree in Studio Painting. I learned from my college professor, Rob Moore the idea that “work parallels the experience”.
From Massart I went on to Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture where I studied with Agnes Martin and Joseph Campbell. One thought I learned from Agnes was “perfection is in the mind”. That experience at Skowhegan brought me to another level in my work. I started visiting Agnes and friends who lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I spent many months of the year there exploring the Anasazi Ruins and the scrap metal yards where I collected materials for paintings and sculpture.
My work was well received in the Boston area where I won the Foundation Grant for Painting and Sculpture. I then moved to NYC for 10 years where I was fortunate to exhibit extensively including at the OK Harris Gallery with Ivan Karp. Later, after September 11th, I moved to Richmond, Virginia to be near my daughter and her family where I currently live.
Please tell us about your art.
I regard everything I do as an exploration. My process is very intuitive. However, there have been consistent themes and interests over the years. For example, I’ve always been attracted to patterns found in nature—At the same time, I’ve always been intrigued by man made structures and architectural elements. I often incorporate materials from such structures in my work.
These found materials, each with their own histories, have a patina or color that, together with other textures, adds a certain kind of energy or reference to a work. I think in terms of color, form and texture, and I find what is available in my environment. I love the feel of materials and the possibilities for transforming colors and shapes into something more. By layering colors, forms and patterns, I reveal the history of a work’s construction. In this way, I hope to create a visceral connection for the viewer and a realization of time passing. This is achieved through the visible evidence of my process of building the work. This sense of building a work can especially be achieved with encaustic painting—through scraping back to earlier layers or showing the buildup of paint on a work’s surface or edges. So instead of experiencing time in a linear way as a narrative to be read from left to right, top to bottom, I look at time condensed and compressed like a double exposure photograph where one picture is taken on top of another. The end result allows multiple moments to appear at once, as if one is looking through peeled back layers to reveal earlier stages of development.
As stated earlier I’m attracted to the geometry of patterns found in both nature and in manmade objects. For example, I’ve always been fascinated by the geometric relationships found in Moroccan zeillige—terra cotta tile work covered with enamel in the form of chips that are set into plaster—and the intriguing way that shape and color are arranged in a pattern. Geometric patterns in nature also inspire me. For example, I’m intrigued by the honeycombs of bees, faceted crystals, rafts of bubbles, snowflakes, spider webs and images of microscopic plants and animals. I also wonder if it’s in our nature to build rectilinear shapes as it is in the nature of bees to make hexagons.
I adopted the attitude that anything in my environment was fair game to incorporate into my work. The crudeness of construction was intentional. I would simply continue to paint over flaws and inclusions. I used color, shape and proportion to express a feeling or mood.
I reflect on this statement from the writer George Leonard’s The Silent Pulse that “pattern in painting is simply a manifestation of the ongoing rhythm of the Universe”. Painter Kenneth Callahan says; “I think there is a big rhythm that flows through everything…in the wind and in the sea and in the dunes and in the mountains…. The important thing is that you are a part of this big universal rhythm. (From filmmaker Kevin Levine’s documentary “Northwest Visionaries.”)
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
Affordable work space and opportunities to exhibit their work are two challenges facing artists. Art writing and coverage of exhibitions in the local papers would create a more informed and dynamic art community.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Every year my work is exhibited the first weekend in June at the International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, MA. My work is represented by Space Gallery in Denver, CO www.spacegallery.org
I also have work in various exhibition venues in and around Richmond, VA. I keep my resume’ up to date as to where and what I will have on exhibition. Saatchi.com also has some of my work on their website.
Address: Richmond, VA