Painter Joy Ray layers pigment and sand on rough textile, along with rusted metal and laid-in wool, needlework and cross-stitch. A punk and tribal goth is expressed in her rough symphonies of black pigments whose diverse textures variegate the canvases. The prominence of hand-stitching as a form of mark-making in Ray’s compositions highlights the aspects of her practice most engaged with the art and cultural history of textile, even as these marks reference coded, extraterrestrial and/or ancient pictographic languages. An exhibition of her new works opens in Hermosa Beach this week, with a romantic witchy energy perfect for calling forth spooky season.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
JOY RAY: I’ve always made art, but I didn’t think of myself as “an artist” until a few years ago. I was showing a friend some things I’d made and he said, “You should show these in a gallery.” It was one of those lightbulb moments.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I’m interested in the unseen world – what exists outside our consciousness – and trying to bring it into view. Mysteries, synchronicities, divination, ghosts…I basically want to open Pandora’s box.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I’m getting my MFA right now, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Low Residency program. In some ways it feels a little crazy going back to school, but it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. To be able to talk about my work with people like Glenn Ligon, Gregg Bordowitz and Hamza Walker is sort of surreal.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I originally moved to L.A. to work in film. I fell in love with L.A. playing in bands in Silverlake. To me, L.A. has always felt very open and full of potential, like anything could happen.
When was your first show?
I first started showing my work in 2017, in group shows. In 2019, I had a two-person show at Launch L.A. with Samuelle Richardson, curated by MOAH’s Andi Campognone. And I’m about to have my first solo show at Shockboxx Project in Hermosa Beach.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
My solo show Ghost Visions, opens on Saturday, October 9 at Shockboxx. Ghost is a nod to Halloween (the closing day of my show) as well as a metaphor for influences or visitors from beyond the rational world. Expect lots of black textiles and paint, and gritty textures, plus new materials (for me) like rusted metal, found objects and even stop motion animation. I have a lot of fun surprises planned.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Eva Hesse, Pierre Soulages, Glenn Ligon, Nari Ward, Annette Messager… I could go on!
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Mostly I listen to podcasts. Currently I’m obsessed with You’re Wrong About, Weird Studies and Dialogues from David Zwirner.