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Carl Ray

Cree

(1943-1978)

First Name: Carl

Last Name: Ray

Full Name: Carl Ray

Alternative Names: (nicknames: Tall Straight Poplar, Ira Hayes)

Date of birth: January 10, 1943

Place of birth: Sandy Lake First Nation Reserve, Ontario, Canada

Date of death: September 26, 1978

Place of death: Sioux Lookout, Ontario

Community / Heritage: Cree

Sex: Male

Art Media: Mixed media, acrylic, ink, pen, watercolour, oil.

Bio:

Carl Ray was a Canadian Cree artist, printmaker, illustrator, editor and an art teacher. He was born in 1943 at the Sandy Lake First Nation Reserve, Ontario, Canada. Ray attended a residential school in McIntosh, Ontario until he was 15. He grew to the height of 6’4” and was given the nickname 'Tall Straight Poplar' in his Cree community.

Following the death of his father, Ray worked as a hunter and trapper to make a living. During that time, he began to paint. His early images were influenced by the sacred legends and traditions of his people. He learned Ojibwe legends from his grandfather, one of the most revered medicine men in the area. Ray eventually left the reserve to work in the Red Lake gold mines. There, his drinking and guitar playing abilities earned him another nickname, Ira Hayes. 

Ray was treated for tuberculosis in the Fort William, Ontario sanatorium and returned home to Sandy Lake in 1966.

Ray apprenticed with artist Norval Morrisseau. Together, they painted a large mural for the Canadian Government for the Indigenous People of Canada Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal. 

Using both ink and watercolours within a limited colour palette, Ray created a unique x-ray style of painting, depicting dynamic relations between humans, animals and legendary creatures.

In 1971, Ray created a large group of illustrations for James Stevens' book "Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree”. He also illustrated the cover of "The White City" published by Tom Marshall in 1976. Hired by the Department of Education of Ontario, Ray taught art in schools in dozens of towns in northern Ontario. In 1971–1972, the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (previously known as the Department of Indian Affairs) sponsored him to tour through northern communities and reserves.

Ray continued to paint through the mid-1970s. He received several commissions to create murals at schools, including a large mural at the Sioux Lookout Fellowship and Communications Centre. In 1970, he had his first solo exhibition of his black-and-sepia Woodlands-style paintings on paper and canvas at the Aggregation Gallery in Toronto. The gallery continued to represent his work and estate through to the early 1980s.

Ray's work is held by numerous museums, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, and many more.

Exhibitions

Solo Exhibitions:

  • 1969 Brandon University, Manitoba, Canada
  • 1970 Confederation College, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
  • 1971 Fort Frances Public Library, Ontario, Canada
  • 1972 University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA
  • 1972 Gallerie Fore, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • 1972-1977 Aggregation Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Group Exhibitions:

  • 1974: Canadian Indian Art '74, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada
  • 1974: Contemporary Native Arts of Ontario, Oakville Centennial Gallery, Ontario, Canada
  • 1975 Dominion Gallery, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 1975: Wallack Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 1975: Art Emporium, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
  • 1976: Travelling exhibition. Contemporary Native Arts of Canada - The Woodland Indians, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada
  • 1977: Contemporary Indian Art - The Trail from the Past to the Future, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
  • 1978: Art of the Woodland Indian, McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada
  • 1979: Kinder des Nanabush, from the McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada
  • 1980: Contemporary Woodland Indian Painting, New College, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 1983: Contemporary Indian Art at Rideau Hall, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 1984: Travelling exhibition. The Image Makers. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 1993: The Art of the Anishinaabe. Works from the Permanent Collection. Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Ontario, Canada
  • 1994: Moose Season. Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Ontario, Canada
  • 1997: Water, Earth and Air. Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Ontario, Canada

Collections

  • Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, QC, Canada
  • Fort Francis Public Library, Fort Francis, ON, Canada
  • Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • Manitoba Centennial Corporation, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
  • McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, ON, Canada
  • New College, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Queen's Park, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Red Lake Fellowship Centre, Red Lake, ON, Canada
  • Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Sioux Lookout Public Library, Sioux Lookout, ON, Canada
  • Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada
  • Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Articles

Artwork

Title Last Sold At Auction
FISH IN FISH 2010-08 (August 2010)
LOON FAMILY 2012-03 (March 2012)
UNTITLED (BIRDS/FISH/WOLF) 2011-11 (November 2011)
ANIMAL SPIRIT 2016-09 (September 2016)
CIRCLE OF LIFE 2019-05 (May 2019)
DUCK FAMILY 2012-01 (January 2012)
DUCKS 2017-12 (December 2017)
EVIL SERPENT 2015-03 (March 2015)
FAMILY; CHICKS; DUCKS 2012-05 (May 2012)
FISH WITH WATERBUGS 2012-09 (September 2012)
GREAT HUNTER 2011-02 (February 2011)
HUNTER AND WOLVERINE 2015-01 (January 2015)
MEDICINE GREBE 2017-12 (December 2017)
SERPENT 2017-12 (December 2017)
SHAMAN IN ANIMAL FORM 2012-05 (May 2012)
SPIRIT CRANE 2017-12 (December 2017)
THE FLOOD 2012-03 (March 2012)
THE WINDIGO 2017-10 (October 2017)
UNTITLED (FISH/SPIRIT) 2014-03 (March 2014)
UNTITLED (LIFE) 2018-03 (March 2018)
UNTITLED (LOON & HEARTS) 2017-02 (February 2017)
UNTITLED (LOONS & HEARTS) 2018-01 (January 2018)
UNTITLED (SPIRIT & ANIMALS) 2017-02 (February 2017)
UNTITLED (SPIRIT MAN) 2015-02 (February 2015)
UNTITLED (THE PROTECTORS) 2012-11 (November 2012)
UNTITLED (THREE BIRDS) 2015-10 (October 2015)

Recent Auction Results

CIRCLE OF LIFE
Estimate: 60 — 80
Sold: May 2019 — Sold For: $264
UNTITLED (LIFE)
Estimate: 700 — 1,000
Sold: Mar 2018 — Sold For: $1,080
UNTITLED (LOONS & HEARTS)
Estimate: 700 — 900
Sold: Jan 2018 — Sold For: $1,680
MEDICINE GREBE
Estimate: 125 — 175
Sold: Dec 2017 — Sold For: $216
DUCKS
Estimate: 200 — 300
Sold: Dec 2017 — Sold For: $204
SPIRIT CRANE
Estimate: 200 — 300
Sold: Dec 2017 — Sold For: $252

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