artist Ray Ashley with serigraph titled “No Message”
Ray was for all of us in local visual arts and that’s what this exhibition is about. As Works/San José settles into its new home with the grand opening of Open San José, we asked our community of artists to create a new work in collaboration with the late San José artist, collector, and patron, Ray Ashley. This exhibition includes a wide range of artists and artistic viewpoints working with and inspired by Ray’s art and extraordinary attitude towards life.
opening reception with grand opening of Open San José:
Saturday, June 10, 12pm-4pm
exhibition: June 10 to June 25 and returns July 21 to August 5
hours: Fridays 12-6pm, Saturdays and Sundays 12-4pm
Ray Ashley was a joy to know and be around. He was an artist, incredible collector of local art, and a supporter of Works since its inception in 1977. He was also a prolific artist who studied at San José State. Ray suffered severe injuries from a grenade explosion in the war in Việt Nam. After years of surgeries and rehabilitation he made hundreds of silk screen and monotype prints before eventually losing the physical ability to create more. Even then, Ray stayed focused on supporting other artists and arts organizations—especially Works.
Ray passed away in 2016 after a battle with cancer, and had willed a portion of his estate to Works. As Works’ largest individual donor, starting a significant fund for the future of Works, Ray is a permanent sponsor of all our exhibitions. Most of his collection of more than 1,000 works by hundreds of regional artists is now in the collection of the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara.
Coinciding with the Triton’s showing of Ray’s collection in 2017, Works mounted an exhibition of Ray’s prints and experiments titled “One of a Kind: mono prints and more by Ray Ashley.” Works was given hundreds of Ray’s prints for the exhibit with the instruction that we manage and find homes for them, and not return any. Many were sold at that exhibit and since, and many given to fans. This exhibit seeks to bring new life to some of the remaining prints, and will include several originals we have set aside and preserved.
Elaine Marie Bello
Irene Berrones Kolb
Lydia Rae Black
all artists credited “with Ray Ashley”
More about Ray: Raymond E. Ashley, born October 15, 1942 in San Francisco, died November 28, 2016 in San José. Ray’s father’s military career took his family half way around the world before they settled in California. His mother, a nurse, also painted.
Ray was an activist opposed to the war in Việt Nam, and he moved to Canada with Irene Clark, whom he married in 1967. He applied for status there but was refused by Canadian authorities. So when he got his draft papers from the United States, he went into the army. Ray was hit by a grenade in 1968, within a year of being drafted. He was so close to the explosion that the metal fragments were white-hot when they pierced his body, thus cauterizing his massive wounds and saving him from bleeding to death.
Ray related, with some humor, that his various medical evaluations, when added up, pronounced him 200% disabled. With years of work in therapy, he regained his ability to talk and walk, although he had trouble with both for the rest of his life. Even with damage to his brain, doctors reported that he had an IQ of 168. He never complained. A sign in his house in west San José proclaimed a “no whining zone,” and he never had a bad word to say about anyone.
Painting in occupational therapy got Ray seriously interested in art, and he enrolled at San José State University, where he studied painting and printmaking. Ray became a beloved member of the South Bay art community. He lived simply and used his military disability payments to buy art. He notoriously outbid others at benefit auctions over the years and amassed an astounding collection local and regional art.
Ray was an early member of the Board of Directors of Works and served for many years on the organization’s Advisory Board.
Thanks to Anna Koster and Joe Miller for notes on Ray Ashley.