Born in Riverside, CA, Artist Fay Ray uses intricate collages, paintings and sculptures to explore object-fetishisim, ritualized behaviors, female identity construction and the conditions of the body. She worked for legendary artist, John Baldessari and has studied with artists Kara Walker and John Kessler. Ray has exhibited at various institutions and galleries, including (LA) Alan Cravey Gallery, LAXART, Gagosian Gallery (NYC) and El Museo del Barrio. Her new body of work, Part Objects, is currently on view in a solo exhibition at Samuel Freeman Gallery in Los Angeles.
Sonny Ruscha Granade
Sonny Ruscha, daughter of artist Ed Ruscha, was born in Venice, California, and has curated several group shows in Los Angeles. She has worked at the Gagosian Gallery and is currently working at Hannah Hoffman Gallery and co-curating an upcoming show with Marine Projects founder, Claressinka Anderson, at the Underground Museum, an artist run space in the West Adams area of Los Angeles.
Sonny Ruscha Granade: Do you remember the moment when you officially decided to become an artist? Was there an “ah-ha” moment or did it just happen?
Fay Ray: No, no “ah-ha” moment. There was a series of things kind of pointing me in that direction. I went to art school at Otis in Los Angeles. I was thinking I would do landscape design or architecture or something. So I started taking those classes and my teachers basically sat me down and said, “Nothing you make works like a proper designed thing should, maybe you should try fine art.” So I did. At Otis at the time, they had a new genres program and I just found home there. I really thought you had to practice strictly photography or sculpture or painting and I never saw myself as just one. It helped me create a bridge between where I was and a lifetime of creating art.
SRG: I know you ended up in New York . . .
FR: I went to grad-school at Columbia. I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to come back for 5 years.
SR: Why? Is it because California is your comfort zone?
FR: Yes, I really wanted the experience of being a New York artist. In grad school, you’re somewhat a little protected, everything is a little padded and softened a bit. By the time I hit my 5 year mark, I was very much ready to go.
One of America’s most influential artists, Baldessari is best known for his work featuring found photography and appropriated images. His text and image paintings from the mid-1960’s are widely recognized as the earliest examples of Conceptual art. He has exhibited recent retrospectives at LACMA (2010) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2010) and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Americans for the Arts, Lifetime Achievement Award (2005).
SR: Yeah, you worked for John Baldessari. What was that like?
FR: John lives, breathes, eats art. It was amazing to have that perspective on someone who has been in the art world for so long and has had such an interesting career and fights for their work constantly. He is extremely disciplined, even with little things – his consistent friendly tone, his optimism, his willingness to work with as many people as possible at all times, he reads all of his emails. It is not optional.
Watching him gave me this respect for the practice, like this is a stand-up job and if you treat it like one it becomes one. John’s routine is the same no matter who is looking. If the entire art world fell away, he would still be doing it. He is a soldier. It was such a great thing to see, especially considering where I am now. There are some times when I feel like people are looking and sometimes when I feel like they are not.
“Even though this q-tip is one
of a million zillion q-tips
in the world, it is my q-tip and
it means something to me.”
— Fay Ray
SR: What is your connection to the materials you use?
FR: They are very personal and I am trying to grasp at more personal things more often. I’m at this point where I am able to allow that into the work. I wasn’t always so comfortable going into my medicine cabinet and pulling things out and trying to look at them in a different way.
SR: What do you think made you more comfortable?
FR: I have had like a million different studios, so many…live-work…work-live. But recently I’m working from the garage in the back of my house. I fought for a long time to keep that boundary very strict. Just marinating in the space for awhile, all of a sudden there was a plaster bucket and a glove inside the house or something, or I would leave my phone in the studio. Things naturally started to mingle.
From Lebanon, PA, Miller is best known for his “John Miller brown” sculptures of the 1990’s. His work is characterized by a corrupted-pop cultural aesthetic. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
I got to a point where I came to realize that even though this q-tip is one of like a million-zillion q-tips in the world , it is my q-tip and it means something to me. And if it means something to me and I want to use it as an instrument in my work, then it will have a very specific meaning in that sense also. I used to try and fight so much harder to find an “authentic” thing that was really specific to me and I finally realized I didn’t have to try that hard . Not one person has the exact same junk in their medicine cabinet as the next. I’ve started to think of all these mundane things in this way I hadn’t in the past. There was a certain precedent for that. A very big influence of mine is John Miller and that is the focus of his practice.
Fischili & Weiss
A pair of Swiss artists, known for working with everyday objects to create spontaneous works of art.
Matthew Marks Gallery
Founded in the 1990’s in NYC and West Hollywood, Matthew Marks Gallery specializes in modern and contemporary art and has exhibited works by Jasper Johns and Ellisworth Kelley as well as a broad spectrum of emerging artists.
Private museum located in Potomac, Maryland, and known for it’s unique recluse and serene setting, as well as its 25,000 sq ft gallery space and sculpture garden.
SR: Some of my favorite artists have come out of the mundane. I love the mundane.
Did you see that Fischili & Weiss show at Matthew Marks gallery where they re-created their entire studio out of polyurethane?
FR: I saw a similar one if it wasn’t that one at Glenstone, its incredible.
SR: Your work is very feminine to me, is that intentional or natural?
FR: I’m constantly fighting with that actually. Fighting back a girlish quality.
SR: What I think is so interesting is that, I know you are not a feminist artist, but that it is feminine and at the same time, very strong and confident.
FR: Thank you! I really appreciate that. I fight for that. If I’m striking that chord then I’m really pleased. I don’t want to lose my femininity, but I don’t want to be lazy about it either. I want to talk about female things, I am comfortable with that. I always want to be looking inward, but I feel like women haven’t been allowed to have a lot of different faces. Most people think femininity is so well understood and I don’t agree with that. I try hard not to just spit them (female stereotypes) back out, I am trying to interpret them.
SR: How does your family react to you being an artist? I come from a family of artists and I’m always interested in that.