Harrison Center Artist: William Denton Ray
Whimsical Funk is about as accurate a description as one could give in describing William Denton Ray's art. Coupled with a sense fluidity and color, his narrative pieces are created on the fly with no planning. Growing up in Indianapolis, he discovered his abilities as an artist at age seven. It was American artist Stanley Miller, better known as Mouse, who captured Ray's attention. Ray would draw Mouse's monster characters and gift the drawings to friends. This began his interest in creating.
Ray views his work as a reflection of American cultures and subcultures. Whimsical Funk pieces vary in size, differ in tones, but share a similar appearance. As a teenager, Ray was exposed to the raw subculture of skateboarding. Though Whimsical Funk references many different cultures, it most strongly pays homage to Ray's skateboarding days. He also draws inspiration from Jean Michel Basquiat, Picassso, Francis Bacon, and Dr. Seuss.
Whimsical Funk depicts two types of characters in its drawings, paintings, and murals and the difference is in the eyes. Those with regular irises simply represent fun characters we might encounter out in the world. Characters with pure white irises are deities. Ray says he didn't grow up with any sense of religion. The deities are his exploration of the heavenly realm. The colors are vibrant and the faces are asymmetrical. True to his style, the narratives he creates are done without planning. Nothing is a mistake, Ray says -- he just goes with what comes. Above all, his work carries an innocence and playfulness.
Recently Ray has been pursuing sculpture. For him, not only is sculpture new territory but also a way for him to introduce interactive art to patrons. Most notably he launched "BYOBR" - Build Your Own Billy Ray. BYOBR are packaged 2-D pieces of Whimsical Funk meant for the patron to build and complete into a 3-D structure. The interactive sculptures are a way to introduce emerging patrons to accessible and affordable art.
Other 3-D pieces such as totems are a way for him to push boundaries with Whimsical Funk. Ray is interested in producing high volume, small-sized wood block totems that are, again, a way to reach Indianapolis patrons. Not only is he leaving the work unfinished, he's encouraging collectors to become participants in Whimsical Funk. How do they see the folk and modern inspired totem characters completed? Ray leaves it to their imagination.
Follow William Denton Ray as he continues to expand his work in Indianapolis. Discover more of his art online at whimsicalfunk.com or on his etsy site, or come and meet this Harrison Center studio artist on an IDADA First Friday.