Carl Ray (Cree) was born on The Sandy Lake Reserve in 1943. The Sandy Lake area was known as the birthplace of the Woodland School of Art, founded by artists such as Norval Morrisseau, the Kakegamic brothers and Carl Ray himself. Primarily, a self-taught artist, Carl’s early images were heavily influenced by the secret legends of the Ojibway/Cree people. These legends, held sacred by his people due to tribal custom, were previously unrecorded. He also learned much about Ojibway legend from his grandfather, one of the most revered medicine men from his area.
As a young man Carl spent much of his early life hunting, trapping and fishing. Through these experiences he gained an appreciation for his natural surroundings which also contributed to his imagery.
Carl Ray was a friend and apprentice to Norval Morrisseau, Ojibway Shaman artist. Together they painted the large mural for the Canadian Government representing the Native People of Canada Pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal. Carl Ray had a unique x-ray style of painting, often showing the inner organs and energy lines inside an animal or figure. His subjects were often shown in turmoil with the elements. To Ray life was full of conflict and redemption.
Towards the end of his life his focus grew more personal and reflected his own inner turmoil. Carl Ray was fatally stabbed at 35 years of age, at Sioux Lookout, during a domestic dispute in 1979.
In his short career his works were also exhibited in shows at Brandon University, Brandon; St. Laurent Plaze, Ottawa; Confederation College and Lakehead University, both in Thunderbay. His works selected as part of the collections of the Cultural Division of the Department of Indian Affairs, the Manitoba Centennial Corporation, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Royal Ontario Museum.