WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Dec. 15, 2016 — Former West Liberty art student and well-known abstract artist Ben Ray donated a painting to West Liberty University recently.
The framed acrylic painting is called “Break Time,” and measures 31 x 38. It was created in 1996-97 and is a wonderful example of abstract expressionism with vibrant blues and yellows on a black background.
“We are grateful for Ben’s gesture and thank him for this painting, which is a tribute to his art education here at West Liberty,” said Dr. Stephen Greiner, WLU president.
Ray, who was born in Steubenville, Ohio, but lived out west for many years, returned to the area this past June and visited his former college campus. He explored campus and then he ran into President Stephen Greiner who was out taking a jog.
He enjoyed his conversation with the president and tour of campus so much that he returned a second time to deliver one of his paintings as a gift to his former college.
Ray studied art at West Liberty in 1961 – 62, with Dr. William Martin and Bernie Peace. After that he moved onto Arizona State University, where he studied from 1963 – 67 and was the art editor for the yearbook. He finished his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in ’67 and was drafted and served in the United States Army from 1967 – 70.
“I trained as a combat medic, then changed my job to illustrator, and spent the next two years in Germany, Korea and Fort Knox doing that,” he explained. After the army, he was back at Arizona State for more art classes from 1971-71.
“I always favored painting though Dr. Martin thought that I was a natural sculptor. But I never sculptured.”
Describing himself as a controversial painter, he goes on to explain that he is an emotional artist who paints what moves him — he does little planning.
“My work expresses feelings, I’m a very spontaneous artist. I suggest moods or feelings in my work only. The viewer is plays an active role in my work,” he said.
Ray has exhibited all over the country but now resides in Weirton, W.Va.
“The reason for my donation is that my learning experience at West Liberty played a major role in my life. I’m paying homage to my art teachers, Dr. Martin and Bernie Peace, who encouraged my art and helped a great deal to guide me in the right direction. Also Dr. Hughes, the head of the English department, played a major role in my young life. Without these three teachers, my life would not have been as rich as it has been,” explained Ray. “West Liberty University will remain in my life as long as I remain on this planet.”
“All of the people at West Liberty, especially President Stephen Greiner, have been wonderful and I am grateful,” he said.
One of his recent art books called, “Last Works” (publisher is Pat Maguire), describes him as “an abstract expressionist using special primary handmade colors, creating powerful, bold work.” Influenced by Lucio Fontana and Franz Kline, Ray is a confident artist who creates with flair.
He had a major one-man show in New York City in 1998, and First Art Expo in Las Vegas solo exhibit.
Ray also was part of a 1999 Empire State Building installation, in New York City.
“I’m real happy with this university. It is great to be back on campus and the drive is still just as beautiful,” he said. His donated painting will be hung soon in the West Liberty University Downtown Center, located at 1100 Main Street, Wheeling.
Another of Ray’s paintings, entitled, Malignant, is permanently housed at the Weirton Area Museum on Main Street along with two of his art books.
West Liberty University is a forward-looking, four-year public university steeped in a rich heritage as West Virginia’s oldest institution of higher education and offering nearly 70 undergraduate majors and 30 programs. Graduate programs include the Master of Arts in Education, the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, the Master of Professional Studies, the Master of Science in Criminology and the online MBA degrees. For more information on WLU, please call 1.866.WESTLIB or visit westliberty.edu.