About Roxie Ray
Southern California Painter
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Well known painter, philanthropist, community advocate and real estate developer, Roxie Ray passed away peacefully in her home October 4, 2019. She died of cancer. Well known painter, philanthropist, community advocate and real estate developer, Roxie Ray passed away peacefully in her home October 4, 2019. She died of cancer.
Roxie’s path to become a painter was complex as she drew from her experiences and the challenges of life. Each painting is rich in dialogue. Whether it was a sun-drenched powerful majestic wave rolling towards shore, a swimmer treading turbulent waters, or an anonymous migrant worker under a sweltering sun, hustling to maximize her pay, the artist painted from the heart, incorporating symbolism and deeply personal narratives.
Born in Orange County, California, Roxie was the youngest of five. She was reared in Corona del Mar, spending much of her youth in Newport Beach enjoying lobster bakes and bonfires on the beach when the ocean was, in her words, “still alive.” Reflecting on the natural landscape, Roxie recalled vivid memories as a child being enchanted by the rolling coastal landscape of Southern California. The ocean remained a sanctuary throughout her life and a metaphor in her work where she could “purge and flush emotions.”
Her parents had struggled during the Depression, with the result that her family was very frugal. Though Roxie was born long after the Depression had ended, money was always scarce when she was a child. It was perhaps inevitable that Roxie would evolve into a community minded philanthropist, sharing her own resources with numerous organizations and advocating for issues committed to the betterment of society. She was a co-founder of
Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo, where she was an Artist-in-Residence and board member, and sat on the boards of Focus on the Masters, Camarillo Hospice and the Meadowlark Service League. She was dedicated to education and helped with numerous fundraising activities to benefit California State University Channel Islands.
Growing up in a predominantly conservative community, Roxie was exposed to a variety of radical political views including the John Birch Society. As a teenager of the 60s, her views broadened to include a social consciousness that remained strong throughout her life. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Clinical Psychology and Master of Social Work from Washburn University in conjunction with the University of Kansas. Looking back on her college years, she said with a laugh, “I was the first person in Topeka, Kansas to wear bell bottoms!” Her professional career began as a Psychiatric Aid at the Topeka State Hospital working with mentally ill adolescents and middle-aged women. She went on to work for Head Start, a Federal program that promotes the school readiness of children from birth to age five from low-income families.
Roxie spent ten formative years in Kansas witnessing firsthand the inhumane treatment of minorities and the civil rights abuses of the late 60’s and early 70s, especially in the rural areas. Roxie became a mom for the first time to her daughter Jestina in 1972 and for a second time in 1993 to her son Max. She would always say her happiest place was surrounded by her children. At age 28, she moved back to California and began to work in the family’s real-estate development company, which continued throughout her life.
Roxie took her first art class at age 41, enrolling in a course in painting at Oxnard College under the tutelage of James Jarvaise. Roxie credits Jarvaise with helping her understand color and lighting the spark that fueled her passion for painting. The timing of her art studies coincided with the death of her mother. She said that, in coping with her grief, she “spent the summer drinking bourbon and doing jigsaw puzzles.” She continued with a laugh, “People got a little worried about me.”
She went on to Ventura College to continue her studies taking a variety of classes. Among her teachers: Richard Phelps, Hiroko Yoshimoto, Ellis Jump, Carlisle Cooper, Mary Michel, and Gerd Koch. She recalled, with great appreciation, “the tremendous education she received from the great faculty at Ventura College.” Hiroko Yoshimoto commented: “I am honored and so proud to have had Roxie in my classes at Ventura College in her early stages of her powerful and successful art career. She was a sincere and inquisitive student and quickly became a “mother” figure to young and not-so-young classmates. Her warm and caring personality continued to make her one of the important leaders of this amazingly supportive art community. It is a devastating loss, but Roxie’s spirit will live on brightly among us.”
In her Focus on the Masters’ 2010 oral history, Roxie shared that her passion for painting was complicated. “To paint is not a particularly happy and joyful experience [for me]. It is more of a quiet, meditative relationship with the paint.” When asked to elaborate, she said, “Ultimately, it all comes down to blood and guts. You don’t know it or realize it until you’re really into it. What you think of as water are actually tears; or, the red part of the hand picking strawberries is the blood that feeds the earth, the people, the world. I try to take my angst to the canvas.”
Roxie’s affection for the Hispanic culture can be traced to employees who worked in her father’s building company during her youth. Growing up with these individuals instilled in her a deep respect for their work ethic and joyous family life. Later, when she started to paint migrant workers, she explained that she “was tired of field workers being seen as simply part of the landscape.” Her paintings of migrant workers are rendered with deep respect and dignity. She wanted to convey a keen awareness of the laborious aspects of what it takes to produce food for our tables. At one point in her development as an artist, she saw the female figures she portrayed as a metaphor for herself.
Roxie had a love for music throughout her life, playing multiple instruments and singing in a choir as a youth. She continued to play the piano throughout her life, but, “only for myself.”
Roxie understood what it meant to be a member of a community and had empathy for her fellow human beings. In her own words, “Art teaches you humility, as does life.” Roxie was a serious woman who cared deeply for her family, her friends and her art. Her ever-present smile and gracious manner warmed all who knew her. Her compassion, her philanthropy, her desire to make the world a better place, left us all richer for knowing her.
Roxie Ray was documented by Focus on the Masters in 2010, was a FOTM board member and one of FOTM’s most devoted patrons.
– Donna Granata, Executive Director, Focus On The Masters