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Story by Cristina Virsida. Images courtesy of Luna Lee Ray.
Cary, NC – For local painter and teacher Luna Lee Ray, becoming an artist was more of an inevitability than a choice. As the great niece of the famous Dadaist Man Ray, Luna’s talent was in her blood.
Encouraged by her mother, Luna was drawn to the arts at an early age, fascinated by her great uncle’s very different vision of the world. His unconventional life and work created windows of possibilities for young Luna, who grew up living in a very ordinary New York suburb. In elementary school, she took any opportunity that came her way to creatively explore by painting the school’s theater sets and making one-of-a-kind books for friends that showed her eventual interest in printmaking. An introduction to Picasso in 2nd grade solidified her love of art and paved the way for her future life.
Eventually, the need to explore past her conventional upbringing led her to travel away from New York, to the West coast. In Portland, she earned her BFA from the Pacific Northwest College of Art, majoring in printmaking. The adventure of exploration was something Luna enjoyed, and she traveled extensively over a number of years.
Traveling also became a way for Luna to expand her artistic abilities. Each new place had a profound impact on her, affecting the way she painted and the techniques she used. “I was always surprised at how much my work would change depending on where I lived,” says Luna. “When I lived in New Mexico, I used more earth tones. When I lived in Hawaii, my work would take on more oranges and vibrant colors. Everything I looked at, touched or experienced went into my art.”
After moving to North Carolina in 1998, Luna’s work became strongly influenced by the changing seasons and the ever-expanding world of her garden, where nature’s process of change could be examined in-depth. “I find myself drawn to those flowers that have lost a petal, the ones that are no longer in their prime.” says Luna, an avid and obsessed gardener. “That continuous thread of life and death is never more evident than in a garden.”
Since finding a personal and creative home in Carrboro, Luna’s focus has turned from the adventure of travel inward towards internal exploration. Never content in any one style or subject, Luna constantly explores past her creative boundaries, though that potent subject of change remains.
Luna’s background in painting and printmaking can be found in all of her pieces, with the mixed use of photos, paints and 3-D objects, creating unconventional, cohesive works of texture and depth combined with a printmaker’s love of “the razor-sharp line”.
That underlying, potent theme of awareness and personal exploration is something frequently commented on by her viewers, me included. Although each person may view her work differently, the experience of a uniquely personal moment of reflection is most commonly felt. “Most people that see my work come away with something that makes them think, and think profoundly, even if at first all they saw was a beautiful flower.” says Luna.
When Luna is not busy painting in her studio or sketching and photographing local flora, she teaches watercolor, acrylic and mixed media at the Arts Center of Carrboro. Experience Luna’s art for yourself at the FRANK Gallery in Chapel Hill, where Luna is a Member Artist and Main Curator. Luna’s works are also on display at Davenport & Winkleperry’s gallery in Pittsboro.
Some of Luna’s selected works were recently exhibited in Cary Visual Art’s Holiday Art Exhibit. Visit Luna’s studio in person at the Orange County Artist Guild studio tour this November, and in the meantime, check out her website at www.lunaleeray.com for a gallery of her potent and personal works.