Interview with Ray Caesar
The design of the characters in The Path was inspired by the work of several contemporary artists and designers. In this series of interviews, we let the Red Girls themselves ask questions to the artist about their work.
RAY CAESAR creates his rare visions in 3D. This is not the reason why we like his work, but it does make us dream about what sort of game we could make out of one of his 3D scenes. Mr Caesar turns characters into situations that tell stories. And there’s always an intriguing blend of tenderness and pain. As a viewer, you want to care for his characters. You want to be their friend. Or maybe you even feel related to them. His characters are heroic to the extent that they take pride in being exactly who they are and what they are. They mock any preconceived notions of normality and celebrate their own uniqueness. We can only admire them.
This interview was made over a year ago, before the launch of The Path, in January 2009.
ROBIN: Why are all the people in your paintings little girls?
Actually they are not all little girls. Many of them are little boys too such as the Prince of Truth, Castor and Pollux, Harvest and many of them are boys in dresses ( boys were often dressed this way before the 20th century and I had two older sister that had no end of fun dressing me up ) but I can assure you my boys are quite anatomically correct under their pretty skirts… there are even more than a few hermaphrodites with varying and unusual manifestations of defining genitalia just like any Angel of Light. I worked for 17 years in a Children’s hospital in a photographic department that documented such things as child abuse, Surgical reconstruction, all manner of abnormalities in children and how they progress as they grow, I drew medical drawings of dogs and sheep in animal research facilities in the research center and over the many years worked all the strange and unusual things one finds in such a place. One day I might have been working on an animation of the cryogenic removal of a tumor… another day I would have helped build a board game for a brain damaged child to asses the severity. It was a job I took back in 1979 thinking I would only be there for a few months as I didn’t like it very much… but something kept me there for close to two decades. I think I witnessed the absolute cruelty of Man and Nature and more importantly I witnessed miracles and found they are made of the choices we make each and every day. I learned that the human hand can be cruel… but more often that it can perform miracles of heart surgery or write a check to build a new wing of a hospital or just simply brush away a child’s tear. I have found that after working in such a a place for so long that there was little choice for me to make pictures of anything else other than children as the very fabric and soul of those that suffered are embedded in my subconscious and I often feel they whisper gently to me to make a little world for them… a small little heaven of their own where they are calm… a sanctuary… their own little paradise.
My work is mainly about the Archetype of the Divine Child… the Christ figure in all its forms as to me this represents spiritual growth. The children in my work are actually a form of self portrait and as an artist the feminine is a more accurate picture of the nature of the soul… of my soul… that which gives birth to creation. I see more true strength in females than males. The feminine nature has courage, kindness and empathy as those are the essential ingredients for childbirth and care which is not unlike giving birth to Art. Look around this world and see all the fearful frightened little men creating pain and destruction on those much weaker than themselves. I think there is a need for males to learn more “Empathy” in our species… this can be done the easy way if it is done early or it can be done the hard way if it is done late and if it is never done then my world awaits them in the afterlife. I see my family of hunters as calm and they can wait to hunt back their purity but they are not that dangerous to those that approach with kindness. Think about that the next time you stroke a cat in a night time garden as that little feline rules that place and you had better have a good nature or you will get a scratch.
ROSE: Do you believe in the supernatural? Are you religious?
I am Spiritual ! I “Feel” on an instinctual level rather than “believe” that is the reason we are here in this place. It is to allow our spirit to grow with experience. I do not belong to or follow any religion other than a few simple words the Dalai Lama in his wisdom once said… “My heart and mind are my Temple and my bible is one word… Kindness”. People use the word “Supernatural” in such a way that some very simple truths are relegated to the “unbelievable”. I Have had episodes of seeing and speaking with my Mother and Sister after their death and have experienced simple kind visitations since childhood of what I can only describe as ” Friends who are sometimes there and sometimes not”. I have had several precognitive dreams that foretold an event or happening and have had a few out of body experiences while in a state of sleep paralysis… to me all these things are quite natural but I don’t bother with words like “Belief” with these things. I think all people have the ability but it’s not something I worry about if people don’t believe me… it’s sort of like finding the music in the song of a tiny bird. I might say “that’s beautiful music”… another might say “I hear no music at all and don’t believe you”. We live in a world that is both rational and irrational and I keep a part of my life open to “wonder” and “possibility”… it’s a balance and too much of one and you are not in the rational world and too much of the other and you have no ability to love or make art or cry at the sounds a hand can make when it flies over the keys of a piano. Is not Music and Art and Joy and Love “Supernatural”?… They are also quite irrational but full of a wondrous creation of endless possibility and make our hearts sing in such a way that no Doctor can tell us is just a chemical reaction. We live in a world of miracles all around us… caterpillars changing into butterflies, people giving their lives for others, a seemingly endless universe both infinitely vast and infinitely microscopic, a flower opening and turning to sunlight, the communication of bees and dolphins, Termites that build complex towers that in no way could be in the individual mind of a single termite, creatures that should not be able to fly… that actually fly, a single act of kindness, Whales that sing, laughter, joy, birth, life, death… are these things not also “Super Natural”?
GINGER: You work in 3D. Will there ever be a videogame with characters
and props designed by you?
I would rather use the word “Adventure” or the words “Virtual Mystery” rather than “Game”. I believe that the virtual world of non-linear story telling is just beginning and it’s unfortunate that there is such a focus on killing and cruelty and pain in much of the computer game industry. It’s like I said before… males tend to immerse themselves in these very immature and low things as they are not brought up to realize there is strength in empathy and kindness and that real mystery is more exciting than anything. They believe themselves to be the powerful hero that can crush another because they have not truly witnessed actual heroism… the heroism of a mother for her children when she watches them slowly dying in a children’s hospital or the kindness of a doctor that walks into the darkest part of disease ridden slums of Calcutta to treat the sick… or the parent that works a life in a job they hate so that others may have a chance at a better life. To me this is the root of true Heroism. Young males are brought up thinking it is better to hurt than to relieve that hurt in others… go to any hockey or soccer game and watch the parents tell their little 9 year old to get in there and do some damage. It’s all a focus on the self and not the spirit… the EGO that is buttered with uncreative fantasy. Surly adventure and storytelling are old and ancient things and there are wonderful heroes and grand and exciting stories that have been written and acted on stage and film. Although the process of non-linear possibilities are unique to the virtual adventure I still see no reason to not learn from story tellers that have come before us. I look at the game industry today and see only one game… it starts the same and ends the same and it’s sold in a variety of names and packages and has no mystery because it is not utilizing creativity as well as it could… creativity is not its purpose… selling is. The few that stand out that I have played are “MYST” “RIVEN” and “Amber: Journeys Beyond” and I have great hopes for “The Path”. One day I would love to create a Virtual Mystery of life that is more like Art than a game… a tool for raising the spirit and telling the greatest mystery of all.
RUBY: Many of your characters are fused with machines or objects. Are they prisoners? Do they need those things for their survival?
People think I paint pictures of children… I don’t! I paint pictures of the human soul… that alluring image of the hidden part of ourselves… some call them ghosts or spirits but I see them as the image of who we truly are, made manifest with all the objects and bruises that filled the story of each life. Those things and appendages are part of them and in some ways spells for their protection or badges of honor like the wings of an angel. They exist in a garden of moonlight that is akin to my subconscious and it’s a night garden with creatures such as bats and cats and spiders. I like to feel I reach into all the dark places in that garden a gently bring out the frightened things that live there and my Angels will sit with them until sunrise. Like a wonderful old book you find that captures you with the mystery of the main character you read the beginning and fall under its spell and become unaware of the real nature of reality because you are absorbed by the story till its end. I figure that’s what life is and if you cherished a piece of music or an old jewelry box or favorite chair they become part of your soul just as you leave a part of yourself in those objects when you leave this world… next time you’re in an antique shop… quiet your mind and you will hear all the voices embedded in all of those old things… you will hear them singing to you.
CARMEN: There’s a sexual or erotic undertone in a lot of your pictures. Are you trying to titillate? Are you a little bit naughty, Sir?
We are all a bit naughty… we are most definitely the naughtiest species on the planet… I think there is a galaxy of other worlds out there and they would all agree that we are by far the naughtiest of species anywhere… that’s why they are leaving us alone. As for the erotic… Imagine a kitchen and a big pot of water and me in a very big puffy chef’s hat. I sort of work like I am making a soup… I add ingredients because it feels and smells and tastes right to do so… you don’t think about what you are adding… you add it because you know it should be there. Sometimes it’s a hint of sexuality or taboo and sometimes a bit of humor, and other times a smidgen of horror if it’s chopped up just right and seared in oil. A bit of the past and a bit of the future, a spoonful of sugar and a pinch of prettiness and a soupcon of the things people never show one another… things they even hide from themselves. There are many herbs and spices and slabs of meat and fresh hunted game in my kitchen and lots of little bottles with strange names on. The one thing I understand is what it’s like to look at Art with the nature of the voyeur… we look and we pretend shock and modesty but the truth is we all are strange creatures when we are alone in a room or in our own mind, and for some looking into a picture is like looking into their soul… and if my own mind is an example of what goes on in my mind!!! I sometimes wonder what the hell goes on in every other person’s mind, and there are 6 billion of us on this tiny planet. Art to me is like making a mirror… I add all these things because they are there but the person who looks at the work sees what they want first… a kind person sees the kindness, a dangerous person sees the darkness, a funny person sees the humor, a thinking person sees the thought and well!… a naughty person sees the naughtiness!
SCARLET: What is the function of art in society? Is a society without art thinkable or desirable? Why (not)?
Art and music and literature and dance and all forms of irrational positive creativity allow us to express our passions and communicate the almost indefinable quality of love. It allows us to tell the stories of each life throughout time and helps us understand what we truly are. There is no rational need of Art or Music or Love or even Spirituality… we can do without them we can live without them. They are the things that are needed in another way that we have great difficulty in defining but we know on some spiritual elemental level that we must have them. Without those things I think we would merely be very smart… very dangerous and very rational Predators. Just like that wolf that follows you about… or is the wolf the one being hunted?… and your little basket of goodies the bait?
Thank you, Ray, for answering our curious girls’ curious questions, curiously!
And thank you, readers, for reading. Please treat yourself on a visit to Ray Caesar’s website for a heart warming and soul strengthening exploration of miracles and madness.