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Crowd-Funded Book ‘Ray Strong: American Artist’ Hits Bookstands

During Downtown Santa Barbara’s 1st Thursday event from 5-8 p.m. May 5, 2016, Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery will host a book release party for Ray Strong: American Artist, the first-ever hardbound monograph on the famed landscape painter.  

Produced in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and with the help of innumerable community stakeholders, curators and collectors, the 256-page book has finally arrived.

Ten years ago, this book could not have existed. Without online funding platforms like Kickstarter, where The Ray Strong Project raised $30,000 to print this book, the cost of printing would have been prohibitive.  

Without online document sharing platforms like Google Drive, the difficulty of using six different scholars to share research and produce the text would have been unmanageable.  

Desktop publishing software placed the layout within reach, and social media platforms and a blog helped raise awareness of the project among local collectors.  

The production of this book creates a possible model for other communities who want to celebrate and historicize their own local heroes.

Of course, Ray Strong is a special case. Frank Goss and Jeremy Tessmer of Sullivan Goss undertook the leadership of the book’s production as a passion project but needed help. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History made itself available as a financial partner.

Strong’s former dealers — Ellen Easton of The Easton Gallery and Marlene Miller, formerly of the Arlington Gallery — offered their archives, while local artists from Strong’s Oak Group — including Arturo Tello, John Iwerks, Chris Chapman and others — have helped assemble Ray Strong documents, stories and images.

Community cooperation has been key. Only an artist like Ray Strong could have inspired it.

Ray Strong: American Artist is available now and retails for $50. The book features an introduction and six essays chronicling the chapters of the artist’s life and various aspects of his career, as well as 171 illustrations in a substantial and attractive 10 x 10⅞ inch format.  

Among these illustrations are many of the works that were featured in a Santa Barbara city-wide celebration of the artist’s work during the summer of 2015 at venues like the the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.  

It also features a selected exhibition history, annotated chronology and collections and murals list. Many of the photographs for the reproductions were taken by one Strong’s long-time artistic collaborators, Bill Dewey.

The Essayists

Nancy Moure, former assistant curator of American art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has worked for the last 35 years as an independent art consultant and writer for pre-1945 California art.

Although she has curated several exhibitions on historic Southern California art, she is best known for her survey book California Art: 450 Years of Painting & Other Media, a foundational book that covers the history of painting from the Native Americans to the year 2000, as well as for her 13-plus volume series, Publications in California Art, which aids researchers seeking rare and obscure information on early California artists.

Donald J. Hagerty is an independent historian who has written extensively on Maynard Dixon. His books include The Art of Maynard Dixon and The Life of Maynard Dixon besides numerous periodical articles.

Among his other writings are Leading the West: 100 Contemporary Painters and Sculptors, Beyond the Visible Terrain: The Art of Ed Mell and Holding Ground: The Art of Gary Ernest Smith plus monographs on James Swinnerton and Gerard Curtis Delano.

He also has curated exhibits for museums such as the Museum of New Mexico, Tucson Museum of Art and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Currently he serves as vice president for the California State Library Foundation.

Dennis M. Power served as director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for 22 years, during a time when Strong was actively painting and helping nurture the next generation of plein air painters. During this time, the director and artist became good friends.  

In honor of his service to the museum, the bird hall where Strong’s dioramas are located has been called the Dennis M. Power Bird Hall.

Power also has served as executive director of the Oakland Museum of California and, more recently, president of Laguna College of Art + Design in Laguna Beach.  

Michael Whitt is a physician, poet and environmentalist. He is the co-founder and curator of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust art show, Ranches & Rolling Hills, and has contributed essays on Ray Strong and the Oak Group to Along the Way: Ray Strong Landscape Painter, The Oak Group Twenty Years 1986-2006 and Ranches & Rolling Hills Art of West Marin, A Land In Trust.

He was a friend of Strong’s for 25 years.

Sandra Francis is a retired broadcasting, advertising and film executive and a longtime resident of Marin County. With her husband, artist Jon Francis, she owned and managed a Los Angeles recording studio and a successful commercial film production company.

Thirty years after receiving her bachelor’s degree, she returned to college, first at Dominican University and then Mills College, where she earned a master’s degree and honed her skills as a writer.

Encouraged by her husband’s growing art business, she developed her appreciation for California landscape painters, finding something especially compelling about Strong’s Marin County landscapes.

Martha Lee Owen is descended from early Adirondack settlers on both sides of her family and is the second generation of her family to operate Adirondack Realty, where she has been a real estate agent since 1979.

After graduating from Mount Holyoke College, she participated in and worked for multicultural and international educational programs for 17 years, including Crossroads Africa, American Field Service, Head Start, Chinatown Planning Council and California public schools. She is married to Frank Owen, an artist.

The Ray Strong Project is an effort to properly record and contextualize the artistic accomplishments of California artist Ray Strong (1905-2006).

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