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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Saint Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco, California, 2015 (detail), mixed media (digital photography, pen and ink, watercolor, acrylic, music composition), courtesy of Ray. Saint Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco, California, 2015 (detail), mixed media (digital photography, pen and ink, watercolor, acrylic, music composition), courtesy of Ray.

Where Art, Architecture, and Music Meet

A unique collaboration between different SDSU schools is on display at the SDSU Downtown Gallery.
By Jessica Ordon

San Francisco Bay-area artist Jeff Ray brings a site-specific, multi-sensory installation called Cathedrals: Jeff Ray to the San Diego State University Downtown Gallery this spring. A self-described man of many trades, Ray’s art overlaps photo, video, sound and original music to create immersive, spatial meditations on a theme.

Nature and architecture converge

In this project, Ray continues the creative examination of the relationship between nature and architecture that characterizes much of his work.

“My favorite kind of connections that I often explore visually are the connections between nature– trees and clouds– with human-made structures,” Ray said. “I explore the idea that nature engenders architecture and vice versa.”

Ray reimagines structures like cathedrals as both visual and sonic landscapes– they are not only seen, but also felt and heard. The result is a collage of photography and sound that SDSU Downtown Gallery Coordinator Chantel Paul describes as captivating.

“His combination of visual photographs with applied notations and sound create a very layered experience,” Paul said. “The photographs are constructed in such a way that they can be viewed on their own as stunning visual objects and adding to that, visitors can listen to the accompanying musical composition while looking at the work.”

A special collaboration

For Cathedrals: Jeff Ray, Ray collaborated with SDSU music students to create the original composition that will accompany the visual components of the installation. He loves teaching and working with students, and relished the experience.

“It’s important for everyone to understand why this is possibly my favorite way to show and create my work,” he shared. “It reminds me of when I got my MFA at San Francisco State and how collaboration, cross-disciplinary exploration and practice was so crucial in defining my process.”

Spiritual but secular

Though Cathedrals: Jeff Ray doesn’t particularly focus on the religious aspect of the buildings, the exhibit does celebrate their physical beauty as something that feels inherently spiritual.

“The tall ceilings and large space draw the eyes upward, causing the cathedral to become essentially a metaphor for looking up into heaven,” Ray explained.

After its presentation in San Diego, a portion of the work will move to the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for a subsequent, unique installation as part of Soundwaves 7 Architecture’s SonicLabs.

Cathedrals: Jeff Ray will be on view at the SDSU Downtown Gallery from April 7 through June 12. Gallery hours are Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gallery is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit the Arts Alive SDSU website.