Photography
© Ely Abrums and Laura Walker

Ray Vinella

When asked his favorite subject, southwest artist Ray Vinella, answers, “Life!” He says, “I love it, and I love art – and they go together. I like to get up in the morning and look at the sky and all its beauty. I like looking at the green in the Sangro de Cristo Mountains – the different shades in the early morning, late afternoon, when it’s raining, when it’s snowing, in the autumn. That’s life and that’s my art.”

Vinella’s paintings often portray the northern New Mexico landscape, the Taos mountains, and the Pueblo Indians, as well as nudes, and scenes from the many countries he has visited. He uses a variety of media including egg tempera, pastel, watercolor, charcoal and oil. Even sculpture can be added to the list of this artist’s talents – he was commissioned to do a series of four bronze pieces for the American Express Company.

Born in Bari, Italy, and raised in the Italian section of New York City, Vinella recalls, “I have always earned my living as an artist. I studied advertising art in high school and began hand painting men’s ties in Greenwich Village when I was 15.” He earned his BPA and BFA degrees from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. For nearly ten years afterwards he was employed as an illustrator/artist. After working a few years for Walt Disney Productions, Vinella freelanced as a commercial illustrator but was not happy. “I was a slave,” he says, “working day and night and through the weekends. I had a big home and was very successful but that kind of art had no meaning for me.” What he truly desired was a career as a painter.

His dream was realized a few years later when he and a fellow artist fell in love with the Taos area and began painting the southwest professionally. In the mid-70’s Vinella and six other contemporary Taos artists founded a group called the “Taos Six” in order to promote their impressionistic works of the southwest. He recalls, “Those of us who formed the Taos Six all came to the area at about the same time. We’d meet for coffee in the mornings and argue about art. We learned from each other. We had a camaraderie that I don’t think the younger artists have today.”

Vinella’s works can be found in many collections including The Diamond M. Foundation, and the University of Texas Law School. In 1981 his work was among those represented in the first exhibition of Southwest American Art to travel to the People’s Republic of China. More recently he was commissioned to complete four sculptures of endangered species for the World Wildlife Federation.

Vinella is one of the grand old masters of Taos, having instructed a large portion of the younger painters in the Taos area. Ray continues to paint and mentor younger painters in the area of oil painting.

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