Ray Caesar: The Master of Digital Surrealism

Ray Caesar is one of the most articulate men I know. His work is completely unique and the moment you see one of his creatures with their deformities or hybrid bodies, the audience is well aware it is a piece created by Ray. I appreciate the Art Deco and Victorian settings as they breathe a certain time of wonder and curiosity into the work.

There is also a wonderful sense of a fairy tale like fantasy. Ray’s work is both dark and light in emotion. There is something addicting about the gazes of his subjects that makes you want to see more of his work. Make sure to take the time to look at each piece carefully as I know you will find more than meets the eye. You may want to look away at times, but try not to and soak up their creative uniqueness.

Ray, your fantastic, surreal, intricately detailed subject matter is truly unique. How did you find your voice within this art community? 

For many years, I looked outside of myself for that voice and realized that the fabric and nature of my work is an expression of my “self” and therefore a definition of who I am.  For me, my work isn’t just “Art”, it’s a mirror of who I am and how I define myself. It ultimately becomes an expression of the core of my own personality.  I work in archetypes of divinity and formations of dissociated aspects of my own subconscious personality and a longing nostalgia of the evolving myth of my own life.  When I was very young I began to realize that others defined themselves by gender, and although I knew I was physically male I certainly also knew I didn’t define myself as male and not totally as female either.  I felt on a very deep level that I was something in between, something fluid.  My work is a mirror expression of my own personality and spirituality, and the way I present myself to the world … not through my physical body but through this thing, we all call “Art”. In my mind, my work is a reflection of me on a subconscious spiritual level.  I express my existence in a dissociated way through image on paper or canvas or in a virtual digital realm that mirrors my mind.

I have been doing this for more than half a century so I didn’t find my voice in this “community“…the community found a way to express my voice…it found me before I even knew I was lost, but once it did, I knew in some strange way I belonged.  What I love about today’s art community is that it is becoming more aware and inclusive, and its foundation is built on the ability for each artist to express who they are, even if those expressions are diverse and quite different from each other.  I hope that diversity continues to grow and allows many forms of artistic expression to unfold.  I feel that an Art community where everybody has a voice is important and the ability to express who you are through art is more important than talent or definitions of who is good or bad or in or out.  All expressions of creative thought are valid and are merely an ongoing way to express diversity and the unique nature of every living soul on this planet.  I don’t care if a person paints or sculpts or knits or collects spoons or assembles family photo albums or colors in coloring books, sings in the shower or moves to music in the privacy of their home…it’s a fragrant floral instinctive fundamental expression of their individual unique nature.  Art is often the guide and precursor to how our greater society changes and it is my hope that through awareness, facing the courage of change and redefining who we are, that our species will grow and evolve …. so …good or bad, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, till death do you part ….”Express Your Unique Self“.

Please tell our audience how you approach each piece you create. Do you work on one at a time or several at once? 

I am always working or “playing” on several pieces at one time and has many pieces that are in a holding pattern, patiently waiting for time to solve them.  Every piece I work on becomes something different from the original concept and takes on forms and directions that are ultimately unknown to me.  I don’t think I have ever worked on a piece that didn’t make me back up and take apart elements that I had to reconstruct in a different pattern.  The mind must remain flexible and be willing to give up something so that it can move forward.  I have to say this isn’t just important for art…its important for life.  Sometimes I put a piece to rest so it can reform what it is ultimately intended to be.  That rest period may be months or years or even decades.  In some ways the more I work on a piece, the more it forms into something that is beyond my control… so I give up “control” and become flexible into what this particular piece is moving toward and it will eventually tell me its own direction and manifest its own finality in a undetermined future.  It’s always a mystery to me how something I am working on feels like it has a mind of its own and I find I quite enjoy that mystery and its surprising finality.
I can only relate this experience to what we all did as children and back then, we called it “play”.  In a way I would say that “I play at many pieces at the same time” but in my child’s mind they are all one and the same piece.

I want to know more about where these beautiful creatures come from? They seem relatable yet completely created from fantasy. Are they based on real people? 

They are a reflection of me and the way I see and define myself.  They are completely movable digital dolls wrapped in my skin and with physical aspects of myself as an expression of my memory through my life.  They are a pure and uncompromising act of self-indulgence.  They inhabit spaces that are rich with the nostalgia, texture and odor of my own past.  Each day we present ourselves to the greater world in a particular way that defines who we are and that is what my work does for me.  Others may define me as an old white male with gray hair and a limp that looks a bit like a bulldog, but I choose to define myself in my own peculiar way because although we cannot control how others define us, we all have some freedom to define who we are ourselves, and that plays into how we define others.  If we see ourselves as more than the pigment of our skin or our gender or our age or culture then we have the freedom to realize we are unique, diverse, amazingly unusual individual lifeforms and at no time in history has there ever been anyone or anything just like us with our own set of unique memories and feelings.  We are each of us a walking New York Times Best Selling Novel of Individuality”  and each of us is unlike any other person that has lived.  If I define myself this way then that has to be the way I define every other person I meet….and because of that, every other person I pass on the street is just like me, unique and diverse with hidden secrets, charms and flaws.  I am not sure if that is fantasy or reality as both of these are in some ways the same thing…all I know is that it’s me and therefore..Yes! My work is based on a real person.

What has been your favorite piece to date and why? 

I have to be honest here in that I walk around with a hundred unfinished pieces in my head.  I am always so excited for the potential of the piece I am currently working on that it may stand above all the others and that has to be my favorite.  I love all the past works and in many ways I see them all as the same piece, with the same ingredients, but each with different amounts of those ingredients.  Fear, love, hate, joy, humor, nostalgia, melancholy, courage, gentleness and ferocity, sexuality, taboo, spirituality.  These and many other emotional ingredients are my pallet.  Once I have finished a work I really don’t look back, when I do, I often feel that the older work was made by someone else without much of a connection to me, it’s an odd feeling like seeing a picture of yourself as a child…is that you or is that who you were, is that the foundation of who you are now or something lost forever?  In truth I am always excited and in love with the current piece… I still struggle to learn and do better than I have done before and I am always struggling to achieve something that is elusive and seemingly beyond my grasp or ability.  I am content that I will never master this endeavor and will always be a student and I wouldn’t have that any other way.

What is coming up next for you? 

I had several group shows recently.  On October 13th, an amazing show took place in London with Dorothy Circus Gallery with Kazuki Takamatsu, Joe Sorren, Marion Peck, Ray Caesar, Travis Louie, and Camille Rose Garcia and Special Guest Artist: Mark Ryden and many others.  I also had a show in Toronto at Gallery House another took place on Nov 4th with Selena Wong and Lori Fields, and a group show in Amsterdam with Kochxbos Gallery also on Nov 4th with artists Claire Partington and Meryl Donoghue. 

People can also find my work in the Hamptons at Damien Roman Fine Art, Corey Helford Gallery in LA, James Freeman Gallery in London, UK, Richard Goodall Gallery in Manchester, UK.

What can you tell our readers that you may not have told anyone else before? 

I have several non-corporeal voices that have spoken to me since my childhood and I hid this for many years as it used to scare and violently upset my parents and others.  I suspect in an earlier point in history, I would have been burned alive for such admissions so I am always a little reluctant to speak about it, even to people I know very well.  It has recently been realized that more than 20% of the people that hear voices are not in any way schizophrenic and are otherwise quite healthy.  There are a few scientific theories on this and I have a few “mystical” theories of my own.  I have been in therapy for a while and psychologically it’s thought that this is a form of Dissociative Identity Disorder or just normal for some people.  The voices are gentle, good and kind and quite funny.  They often have conversations with each other and I basically sit and listen…I am not sure if “listen” is the right word as the communication is quite personal and intimate.  They often express themselves in a kind of mind image that can communicate ideas very fast or on occasion use my own voice.  

If I were to ask them if they are part of my own subconscious or something beyond myself, they answer that both concepts hold water, that to think of my life as a cup full of water that is open on the top …and then think of that cup of water under an ocean of shared consciousness….like I said, a fast mind image.  On the somewhat humorous advice of these voices I have chosen to neither “believe” nor “disbelieve” in their external existence, but instead encourage myself to be open to “Wonder” as it is a more workable, flexible and fluid method for life experience.  I can’t really say if my images are part of this shared consciousness or not, but I sense that both originate from a similar area of thought energy and is similar to what we think of as intuition, a gut feeling, or internal communication.  It’s something that comes and goes for me and is also related to periods of lucid dreams, night visitations, and sleep paralysis where the sensation of another is not only auditory but also visual and involves touch.  On several occasions it has resulted in periods of undeniable precognition in which visual events become true a few days later.  I have decided long ago that it’s not important what others think of this or their judgments of it.  I place the history and significance of these voices into a part of my mind that doesn’t need answers….it’s just something I have lived with and I am content to let it be what it is.


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