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Ella Maria Ray

EllaMaria Ray PhotoElla Maria Ray
Artist – Anthropologist |

Ella Maria Ray is an associate professor of Africana studies and cultural and visual anthropology, and ceramicist. Through visual art she explores the relationship between ethnographic data, literature and Africana culture and history as a tool for understanding humanity.

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, Gayla Lemke, Barry Rose and Marie Gibbons.

As a child she expressed her creativity through performing arts.  Ballet, African dance, music, and oration provided her imagination with rich nutrients for growth.  As a child, her mother, who cultivated a deep appreciation for the arts, insisted she embrace her gifts.   When her mother died in 1985, her creativity was subsumed by the demands of graduate school, and developing her understanding of anthropology as an academic discipline.  Following her father’s death in 1997 her muse guided her back to a creative vocation, directing her to focus her intellectual energy towards clay and story telling.

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 understand the complex vision diasporic Africans are creating for themselves and for all of humanity as we walk further into the twenty‑first century.