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Artillery: Fay Ray at Shulamit Nazarian

Image: Fay Ray, Big Black Butterfly (2018). Courtesy of the artist and Shulamit Nazarian.
Alumna Fay Ray's Work on View Through May 26
Shana Nys Dambrot

Fay Ray (BFA '02) often says her work is about the construction of identity, which is something a lot of artists say. But in “I AM THE HOUSE” Ray takes that premise in sublime new directions, in a series of sculptures and photo-based works that through formal materials, actions and techniques of their processes, and narrative aspects of their content, do construct identity, right before your eyes. In the related methodologies of assemblage-based sculpture and accumulative, multi-layered photographics, Ray treats her cast aluminum replicas of corn cobs, cacti, feathers and the like, metal chain and industrial hardware, as well as her inclusion of natural elements like conch shells and honey-colored onyx, with a talismanic reverence tempered by a sharp wit.

Crossing zones between function and ritual, agriculture and religion, luxury, art, and magic, the symbolism and significance of her iconography and mediums not only evoke tropes of religion and worship writ large, but also a set of references to cultural crafts and industrial materials tethered in her personal heritage. They are enormous and should be imposing: the dream catchers, wind chimes, and rosaries of giants. But instead they are ethereal, framing the space more than occupying it, and speaking to the outsize potency of accepted cultural signifiers in defining our conceptions of self.

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Image: Fay Ray, Big Black Butterfly (2018). Courtesy of the artist and Shulamit Nazarian.