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Timothy Ray, Minnesota Artist and Teacher, Gone but not Forgotten.

Posted on: February 22nd, 2013 by Jeff Weispfenning 10 Comments

The High Northern Plains Arts Community mourns the loss of one of it’s own this month, as Canadian/Minnesotan artist, Timothy Lionel Ray died, February 9th, 2012 at the age of 72.

I had the pleasure of being taught by Mr. Ray at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, 1995-1996, where I went to art school, specifically for painting.  Ray, a Minnesota artist, was born in Indian Head, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1940 and studied at the University of Manitoba School of Art, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  He went on to earn his Masters of Fine Art degree from the University of Arkansas.

Ray taught high school art for 6 years as well as teaching at Pikeville College in Kentucky before coming to Moorhead in 1970.  At MSU, he taught painting studio and seminar until he retired in 1996.  I happened to be lucky enough to enjoy his last year of teaching and can truly say that I will miss him.

As a college art student who is studying long hours and working in studio even longer hours, I didn’t realize that those hours would probably be my best memories of time gone past.  In studio art school, you work alone, but must present your work to the class for critique once a week.  Also, you were expected to meet with the prof. for an hour or more each week, as I remember.  Tim Ray was a very patient man but also a wonderful teacher, and even a mentor to me.

Mr. Ray, whose work was abstract and non-representative, most likely reluctantly allowed me to paint figural work.  As a university professor, he was there to guide me, not steer me.  For this, I am much obliged.  Even so, his knowledge of paint and art technique was happily passed on to me, as we discussed my paltry portrait of Leda and the Swan, etc.

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As I progressed on with my studies, I learned more about the history of art and took a seminar class with Mr. Ray.  In it, we learned how the “being” of an artist and the “doing” of art are related.  We wrote papers, read books and gave speeches, but memory fails me as to why I failed that class.  Probably too difficult?  Too much work?  (I later retook it the next year and passed!)

Students always think they have special relationships with their teachers.  They think that they are the only ones who really knew that teacher.  They believe that they were the only ones the teacher liked, etc.  I understand now that many people knew Mr. Ray as their teacher, their mentor, their friend.

Ray lived and worked in a small, old church in Moorhead, which he converted into an art studio.  I visited him a couple times there after he had retired, sipping single malt scotch with him and Anne, his partner.  Over the years, I would see Tim less and less at various events in Moorhead.  I saw him for the last time this past summer, 2012 at the Rourke Art Gallery, Moorhead, for my one man exhibition.  I think he was checking up on my work, and I appreciated his critique and guidance that day!  He said that I should look into having more shows.  His proclamation that I was “ready” for the Art World was the best thing I could have heard!  For that, I will always be grateful.

In a strange twist of fate worthy of a Greek tragedy, his son, Sean Ray died on the way to his father’s funeral.  He and his partner died in a car accident during a blizzard along I-94.  Tim Ray’s grandson was also injured in the accident and remains in critical condition.

At the time of his death, Tim Ray was working on a lifetime retrospective (Raytrospective) of his work for the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks, ND and later at the Ecce Gallery in Fargo, ND.  This exhibition is up and running.  As well as making art, Ray also had designed painting easels and other studio furniture for the Barnesville Easel Company.  I currently paint on one of these great easels!  Thank you Mr. Ray!

Timothy Ray’s Art, a combination of Painting, Printmaking and Papermaking, was Non-Representational, Abstract.  I can remember seeing it and thinking at first, “What is this?”  Ray would paint or relief print on plastic sheets and layer in Japanese handmade papers.  Then, after it had dried, he would peel it all off and cut it into strips or shapes.  After assembling it together, he may even add other layers of direct paint or perhaps use such printmaking techniques as Chine Collet or Collagraph.  This Non-Objective “Collage Painting” would then take on a new life.  Ray utilized such principles of design as similarity & contrast, rhythm & repetition, and harmony of color.

Tim Ray’s “Raytrospective” can be seen at the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks, ND and at the Ecce Gallery, in Fargo, ND.

Thank you Tim for being my teacher and mentor (as well as other’s), and for making your art for everyone to see and enjoy.  You are missed, loved and respected as an artist and teacher and I was blessed to have been taught by you!

10 Responses

  1. Chad Winterfeldt says:

    Nice tribute, Jeff.

  2. Jeff Weispfenning says:

    Thanks Chad. I’m glad you read it!

  3. James Weispfenning says:

    Nicely written. Sounds like a truly great guy! j

  4. Jeff Weispfenning says:

    I liked all of my college profs…

  5. Jeff Weispfenning says:

    But Tim was my painting guru.

  6. Ron says:

    Nicely done Jeff! I am saddened to hear of this loss but it sounds like he still lives in you.
    Take care.

  7. Donna Watson (Cote) says:

    I was sorry to hear of Tim’s passing. I knew him from way back when I lived in Winnipeg with a good artist friend of his. We used to go up to Moorhead and see him at his home (old church back in the 1980’s.
    I am also sorry to hear that his son also died…
    I always really like Tim’s work.

  8. Victoria Ray says:

    Tim was my husband’s cousin. I only had the pleasure of meeting him once. We were unaware of his passing. Thank you for doing this tribute.
    Vicki Ray

  9. Matt Tebbutt says:

    Sad to hear about Tim Ray’s passing, as well of his son Sean.
    He was a family friend and unfortunately we fell out of touch after my parent’s deaths.
    I will always remember him as a soft spoken, kind person.

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