SDSU Downtown Gallery explores space and sound through photography

by Lainie Fraser, Staff Writer

San Francisco Bay Area artist Jeff Ray typically photographs the geographical surroundings close to him.

He explores the natural coast, World War II bunkers abandoned on the coast, as well as St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco.

His upcoming exhibit “Cathedrals” at the San Diego State Downtown Gallery is a collaborative work with Aztec students.

The immersive and visual art experience will be hosted at the gallery from April 7 to June 12.

Ray’s goal with this installation was to create a site-specific, multi-sensory experience and bring a new narrative to his photos. He did this by altering his photos in a variety of ways.

Some alterations are digital and involve Photoshop. Other alterations involve ink or watercolor applied directly to the photo to create graphic elements of lines and shapes.

Through these edits, Ray hopes to bring a sense of fantasy to the work.

“Every art project I take on is an exploration and journey,” Ray said. “I want the viewers to also be on a journey: the feeling of exploring space and sound.”

Ray hopes to take his viewers on this journey by elevating his photographs even further. At the exhibition he is adding an original musical composition to each piece, corresponding to the shapes on the photographs as the viewer walks from left to right.

Ray created all of the music himself, with a little help along the way. “Cathedrals” will pair photography and original music compositions by him with the SDSU Composition Laboratory, which is under the direction of SDSU professor of music and composition Joseph Waters.

“Jeff has held an open door and encouraged my students to be centrally engaged in the creative process of his work,” Waters said. “He has given them complete reign to integrate themselves with his work in any way they choose. This has generated in us a sense of exploration, fun and an irresistible urge to wholeheartedly engage with full enthusiasm.”

The SDSU Composition Laboratory students have been able to learn from Ray, as well as have the opportunity to get their original compositions out for the public to hear.

“This has been really exciting to have the opportunity to collaborate with schools and professional artists,” Downtown Gallery program coordinator Chantel Paul said. “Bringing in Jeff as an outside artist offered an opportunity to bridge the two things together and to create a cross-disciplinary program that will end up being unique for the students, the gallery and the San Diego community.”

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, there will be an opening reception at the gallery.

It will include a live musical performance by Ray and an acknowledgment of the SDSU students involved.

The SDSU Downtown Gallery is open Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free to students and community members.