It is approaching a decade since Ray Strong passed away. Those of us who knew him have missed him greatly. He was a power in our lives. He was also a phenomenal painter.
Sadly, his legacy as an artist has never been set forth in a major publication. Consequently, we are organizing a group who will sponsor a major book devoted exclusively to Ray’s extraordinary life and career as a painter.
Just over a year ago, Frank Goss and Jeremy Tessmer of Sullivan Goss – An American Gallery conceived of a project to properly record and contextualize the artistic accomplishments of California artist, Ray Strong (1905-2006). Towards that end, they proposed:
- The creation & publication of a major ART BOOK about Ray Strong.
- The creation of an ONLINE CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ (a web enabled database with images, titles, dates, measurements, exhibition history, and provenance of every single Ray Strong painting and mural)
Realizing that Sullivan Goss alone could neither finance nor accomplish such an endeavor, the gallery approached the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History about a partnership. As Ray’s murals for the Bird Hall at the Museum are such an important local artistic treasure, the Museum agreed. Since then, Ellen Easton of The Easton Gallery, Marlene Miller (formerly) of the Arlington Gallery, and Oak Group leaders like Arturo Tello, John Iwerks, Chris Chapman, and others have helped assemble Ray Strong documents, stories, and images. Community cooperation has been key. Only an artist like Ray Strong could have inspired it.
Subsequently, a year of research lead to the assembly of dozens of binders of newspaper clippings, catalogs, letters, and other documents about Ray Strong and his life. Surely Santa Barbara’s most influential artist, Strong’s considerable accomplishments in the Bay Area are probably lesser known. (Among other things, he helped found the Art Students League of San Francisco.)
Fortunately, the ART BOOK is now underway. Authors Nancy Mouré (preeminent California art historian), Donald J. Hagerty (major author on Maynard Dixon), Dennis Power (formerly of the S.B. Museum of Natural History), Michael Whitt (a long-time friend of the artist), Sandra Francis (a writer / researcher), and Martha Lee Owen (Keene Valley, NY resident historian) have already submitted their essays. Final edits are underway. The book is almost finished being designed. Plates are being gathered. It's almost ready!
Meanwhile, the crowd-sourced CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ has identified almost 400 paintings and murals with over 225 images.
NOW IT’S CRUNCH TIME. With $37,500 already pledged towards a total publication budget of $67,500, THE RAY STRONG PROJECT has gone into overdrive to seek both images of paintings for the book and money to complete the publication.
Not so long ago, a project like this would have been unthinkable. Catalogues Raisonné were once the work of a single scholar’s lifetime. Serious art books were once the exclusive province of major publishing houses. Community financing of a project like this would once have been impossible.
Today, in 2015, online document collaboration software, desktop publishing, customized database tools, and internet-based financing can make a venture like THE RAY STRONG PROJECT possible. With your help, THE RAY STRONG PROJECT hopes to elevate Ray Strong to his proper place in the pantheon of American artists of the West.
In the preparation of this book, we hope to establish a traveling exhibition of his paintings that would tour art museums in Oregon, Northern California, the Central Coast, Southern California and perhaps the Four Corners area.
ABOUT RAY STRONG
Ray Strong had been a landscape painter, muralist and poet since he was just eight years old. His landscapes are among the best representations of the California coast and Oregon. As a founding member of the Oak Group, Strong influenced an entire generation of painters in Santa Barbara County.
Strong was born in Corvallis, Oregon in 1905. While he attended high school, Strong began painting in plein air with Clyde Keller of Portland. Realizing his passion for art, Strong enrolled first in the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (now the San Francisco Fine Arts Institute). Strong then went to New York, and studied with Frank Vincent DuMond at the Art Students League. In the early 1930s, Strong returned to San Francisco where he helped organize the Art Students League of San Francisco. There he studied and taught with Maynard Dixon (1879–1938), Frank Van Sloun (1879–1938) and George Post (1906–1997), and eventually opened an Artist’s Cooperative Gallery. During the Depression, Strong painted murals for the WPA. Some of his 1930s paintings are now in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 1960, Strong and his wife Elizabeth, moved to Santa Barbara, California, for "the birds and the banks." Strong had been commissioned to paint the backgrounds to dioramas in the Bird Hall of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, as well as some paintings for local bank. Until his death in 2006, Ray Strong was recognized as one of the leaders of the preservationist painters collective, The Oak Group. Ray Strong's paintings of the California and Oregon landscape are astonishing in their feeling for the rhythms of natural form. Where his first paintings from the 1930s and 1940s belong to the American Scene painting tradition, his subsequent work documents his affection for the western land. His most successful works place him in the lineage of fine American landscape painters of the twentieth century along with his friend and fellow painter, Maynard Dixon.
- Lassen, Rainier, and White Sands National Parks Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
- Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
- Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, CA
- Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, CA
EDUCATION & AFFILIATIONS
- 1985 Co-founder, Oak Group
- 1965 Co-founder, Santa Barbara Art Institute, Santa Barbara, Calif.
- 1934-36 WPA
- 1934 San Francisco Art Students League
- 1926 Art Students League, New York
- 1924 California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco (now the San Francisco Fine Arts Institute)
Risks and challenges
Every project has its pitfalls, but this is a project well over half finished. The essays are written. The book is almost finished being edited and designed. It remains to be printed, distributed, and enjoyed. That's it. With funding, we can hit print.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)