In 1944, Ray Eames, a high-spirited and trained abstract painter, participated in a group exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Additionally, Ray wrote about the show for the October 1944 installment of Arts & Architecture magazine, an issue whose cover she also designed. Her writing spanned beyond the scope of art. It reads philosophically.
“Man is an entity in a universe and he is striving to find order in himself in relation to that universe—the difference between the approach and a flat design is the quality of life—growth; one must live—expand—grow—or one is dead, dead. We desire a perfect understanding—a perfect balance—a full rightness in life, and an expression of impulse can be found in any medium.”
Years later, Ray was urged to comment on “the state of the fine arts today.” In our archive are her handwritten notes on the subject. Ray decisively wrote:
“The state of the art reflects the state of the people.
[Fine Art] is a natural impulse; it is here to stay.
If it is FINE enough, it does not matter if its form is words, movements, relation of sounds, concrete constructions, a beautiful mathematical equation, or even a piece of canvas.
To free the individual (ourselves) to partake—to enlarge his experience—is our responsibility.”
Ray handwrote, in her unique capital letters, that the “desired result: is a rich full life for all.”
As we’re celebrating Ray on her birthday, during a time when we’re closely scrutinizing and examining our roles in society, it is important to remember her words. Fine art is an imperative aspect of our livelihood. We must keep expanding, growing, and finding our own perfect balance. Art can surely help us get there.
Read the introduction to the Eames Archives: An Image as an Idea series here, and stay tuned for monthly installments. You can also read more of Ray’s writing in Daniel Ostroff’s publication, An Eames Anthology.