Monday, February 7, 2011

in memoriam: Dick Wray

What Would Dick Do?
What DID Dick Do?

Mr. Crow is gone amidst a tumult of Thunder and Lighting.

I have lost he who was so important to my work; indeed I have lost 4 artists this year who were my peers.
Dick Wray was and is a persona not to be ignored.   I have to chase him out of my studio every day. If he is there, I know it.

I saw a show of his shortly after I arrived in Houston as a young man. Dick and I are only 5 years apart, but Dick appeared older, regal, and totally self-assured. I approached him and said “Mr. Wray I like your work, it has balls.”  He ignored me.
Then,  a few years later he told me he liked my work because it was filled with ideas, but was totally unfocused. He was right. His work bounced all over, yet remained focused on the object, the picture as an expression of a joyful and hedonistic life.

Dick and Beth came to my most recent show. That was a total surprise because Dick seldom appeared at anyone’s show.  Later, we exchanged paintings. I got the better deal.

People judge us by their first impression. It rarely changes. Once Dick was set in your mind, he was always that Dick.

Quote” I’d rather a Dick Wray in my house than Dick Wray”. Unquote

You had to get over that Dick and enjoy and participate in what was there…the Dionysian, the demonic, and the hedonistic freedom.
He was Houston’s Jackson Pollack…. Pissing in the fireplace…. figuratively not literally…. at least I had never heard of such an occurrence…but I would not put that out of the question.
Mention him and you get a definite response….nothing marginal.

Women Loved him, many hated Him.
On men he was even harder, particularly  if you called yourself an artist.

He and his work were one; challenging, purposely politically incorrect.
You had to enter into the fray…….love the discourse……and above all Laugh.

He was a great Sexist. He loved to embarrass people of both sexes. A Friend, an ex-student came to town and asked to meet Dick Wray. She is very attractive. I said “I will take you. You should not go alone.”
Sure enough there were naked lady pictures all over and he gave one of his best performances…He was the Great Dick. She totally enjoyed herself and said I was right…Not by Herself…
Not that Dick would have done anything inappropriate….he just presumed it.

If you had personal issues he would find them and play on them, see where he could take them, just as in his pictures. It was all part of the great dance; forever young,
always maturing…
and then, the Crow in Winter.

Dick often said, “ that painting is an old man’s game.”
I agree.
Dick was always Dick from his first pictures…
he just got better at being DICK.

Never do Art and finance mix. Just visit the galleries and see that evidenced.
Dick made pictures for himself and Knew that they were good and if you wanted to buy one that was good, and if you did not that was ok. He did not make product. His last great show sold nothing.

As he lay dying, his home was filled with friends. Never have I seen a death so well attended and photographed….. I hope never to see those photographs on the Internet;
But, I treasure one where he is sitting up in bed holding my hands very tightly
in his huge warm grip…
staring at me….
telling me without words to carry the torch,
not to forget.
I will do that.
I hope you will too.


  1. You continue to amaze me Earl with the depth of your personality. You will forever be the "walnut" ...the rough hard shell with a sweet surprise once you discover the inner person. =)
    Deb Day

  2. Beautifully wrought, Earl. Dick gave me the courage to paint, early on, my own way. He could be rough, but he was a gift. And so is your tribute.

  3. Earl;
    I so enjoyed reading about Dick Wray; what an amazing and interesting man! Your observations on how he influenced others, his quirkiness, and brilliance make me wish I'd known him.

    Great job!

  4. Earl, thanks for sharing this moving tribute.

  5. I feel so fortunate to
    a) To have known Mr. Crow as I did
    b) To have heard you speak these words at his memorial. My sadness at the loss of your compeneros can not go unspoken. If ever there was a time for Love of is now. If ever there is a time for live and let life and give peace a chance and all is now.

    I recently commented on a popular social network,

    "What a testament in friendship that Dick loved so many different people...many of which might not carry more than a ten minute conversation if apart; but in his cheeky, insightful funny way, the lion could certainly have a laugh with the lamb. Even as I smile, my heart is still breaking. I agree with HJ, we all want to make sense of what we cannot...those different bonds we all had with Mr. Crow. Our Hearts are most heavy for his wife Beth, and his boys Robert and Harold, and his granddaughter Lily, who got a little bitty inkling of what an awesome Grandfather he would have been. Can you imagine the toys? Oi Vei!"

    I only ammend this to say our hearts are heavy too for those like you Earl who stood fast in the dark times as well as the sun times beside Dick.

    How can we all ever really look at West Texas the same way? That sky?
    Those mountains that look just like breasts? Those clouds gently caressing them?