Artist Chat - For Cowried Girls Who Survived Life’s Infernos Whether They Wanted To Or Not

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On display, June 17 - 28, in the For Cowried Girls exhibition you will view masks and African abstract figures by ceramist Ella Maria Ray, all of which are adorned in some way with cowry shells. Works included in the exhibition are from her Africana Women Emerging, Mud Text-tile and her recent Cowried Girls Series.

Ella Maria Ray is an associate professor of African American studies and visual anthropology, a student of the Jamaican Rastafari movement, and a visionary creator of material culture. She creates a relationship between ethnographic data and visual art as a tool for understanding our human experience. Dr. Ray earned a B.A. from Colorado College, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Johns Hopkins University. She has studied figurative and conceptual ceramic sculpture independently with Arthur González, and has taken sculpture classes from Jean Van Keuren (Davis Arts Center), Arnold Zimmerman (Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass, Colorado), and currently with Gayla Lemke and Barry Rose (Art Students League of Denver). Thus far, Dr. Ray’s sojourn has lead her to Cortona, Italy as an artist-in-residence for University of Georgia’s Study Abroad Program, and to fellowships at the University of California, Davis, and Colorado College, Colorado Springs, to analysis ethnographic data, and explore humanity through visual art. Fieldwork has taken her to Jamaica, Botswana and the midwestern and southern United States. Always, she seeks the African roots of contemporary diasporic African cultural manifestations. Dr. Ray's ceramic sculpture emerges from a commitment to acknowledge the ways in which continental and diasporic Africans share cultural commonalties, while simultaneously expressing cultural distinctions. As an anthropologist and visual artist, she strives to teach and understand the complex vision diasporic Africans are creating for themselves and for all of humanity as we walk into the twenty‑first century.

For more information about Ella Maria please visit her website or contact her by email

The Fired-clay sculpture that evokes African American and African cultural expression addresses questions concerning humanity.

Artist Chat - For Cowried Girls Who Survived Life’s Infernos Whether They Wanted To Or Not