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 Ruth (Graham) Ray  (1919 - 1977)

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Lived/Active: Connecticut/New York      Known for: surreal landscape, figure, and animal painting, magic realism

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Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography, submitted November, 2001, is from Christine Lacerenza, daughter-in-law of the artist.

Of her art expression, the artist said: "I try to paint the fact and that which it evokes, the reality and some of its possibilities."  The work of Ruth Ray integrated elements of "magic realism" and "romantic realism" to create a unique vision.  A technical perfectionist, Ruth Ray revealed her emotions through her subject matter.  Natural objects took on fantasy qualities: horses emerged and receded in the crest of a wave; seashells assumed gigantic proportions.  She transported ancient themes to contemporary New England settings: the unicorn in the mist of a Maine coast, the Nativity scene in a New England barn.  Throughout there is a sense of wonder and mystery.

Ruth Ray paintings are immediately identifiable by the fine brushwork, as often seen in the delicate structure of each leafless tree; a sliver of a pale moon, and the signature "wisp" of a cloud or line of seafoam on the sand.

She incorporated the things she loved the most in nature, including the luminous and fragile forms of shells and eggs, beaches, horses, lighthouses, and the moon. Sometimes she used stark or discordant colors in conjunction with these same natural objects to evoke a feeling of danger or isolation, experimenting with emotion in much the same way that impressionist painters experimented with the effects of light on the same inanimate object.  Occasionally her subjects were disturbing and macabre visions from a nightmare, such as her acclaimed "paper man" series depicting holocaust survivors clothed in newspaper as a fragile and pitiable shield.

Ruth Ray's work was influenced both technically and theoretically by artists of the early twentieth century including Georgio de Chirico, who created haunting dreamscapes with the use of exaggerated perspective and dramatic lighting, and Georgia OKeeffe, who emphasized the beauty of natural objects by magnifying and simplifying them.

Ruth Ray was born in 1919 in New York City; her father, Oscar W. Ray, was an inventor and businessman, and her mother, Marie Beynon Ray, was editor of Vogue magazine and a noted author.  Ruth attended Swarthmore College from 1936-1938, and then studied at Barnard College and the Art Students League in New York City from 1938 to 1941.

She married John R. Graham in 1948, and raised their three sons alone after his death in 1964. She was an avid horsewoman, and active participant on the council of the National Academy of Design, and the local Presbyterian Church and hunt clubs.  Her love of horses and knowledge of equine anatomy won her many commissions.  The family lived in Darien, Connecticut until her death in 1977.

She was associated primarily with the Grand Central Galleries in New York City, from 1944 to 1974; and was featured in 21 one-person shows at the Grand Central, Ferargil and Norlyst Galleries in NYC; the Columbus Museum, the Silvermine Guild of Artists in Norwalk, CT, Rive Gauche Galleries in Denver, CO; and several local museums and libraries.

She received the Alger Prize from the National Association of Women Artists, the Marcia Brady Tucker prize, the Medal of Honor from American Artist Magazine, and the Bronze Medal from the Allied Artists of America.

Her art is represented in the permanent collections of the Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA; National Art Museum of Sport, Indianapolis, IN; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; the National Academy of Design, NYC; the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA; and many private collections.

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