Michael Edmund Ray enjoys his art in three dimensions. But he also realizes that within the art world, sculpture is sometimes viewed as very niche.
“My guiding principle is to engage the viewer,” Michael says. “I’m trying to get more people interested in sculpture because typically, people don’t buy art. The word is people don’t buy original art, and those who don’t buy original art definitely don’t buy sculpture.”
Michael is exhibiting at the Art Vancouver Gallery at the Bentall Centre as part of the current group of artists. His sculpture of a reef shark made from BC wild cherry wood is on display now along with two other pieces.
He describes his work on his website as “natural figurative forms of the Northwest.” His work is also influenced heavily by the materials he uses, all local to British Columbia, such as serpentine rock, found wood, and B.C. jade.
“I like to use found materials, like the beluga … was a fallen tree from a railway right of way close over to Agassiz. I was driving down the highway one day and guys were taking down birch trees, big birch trees. And so I swung over and said, ‘Hey guys. Do you think I could have the trunk of one of those?’ And they said, ‘Sure.’ So, I came back in a couple of hours and they tipped it into my truck, because the thing back then, before it dried out probably weighed over 300 lbs., maybe 400 lbs.”
He is able to see the finished sculpture within the raw material. But he says he is pragmatic about his art, wanting more to engage the viewer through its elegant simplicity in a way that is approachable.
While Michael is trained in fine art, it is only within the last decade he has found time to dedicate fully to his passion. He worked in procurement and capital acquisitions for local health authorities, which did not leave much time for sculpture.
“Like they used to joke about Fraser Health and managers,” he says. “‘You only have to work half days, and you get to choose whichever 12-hour period you want.’”
But since his retirement in 2010, he has created about 30 pieces, each showing a piece of the stunning natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Michael will be exhibiting at Art Vancouver, the four-day international art fair, in September. His sculptures will also be on display as part of the Castlegar Sculpture Walk in Castlegar, B.C., one of the largest sculpture-specific exhibitions in Canada.
By Nathan Durec