In 2008, Artist Marty Ray was approached by DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) to design the train stop at what was then called the Carpenter Ranch Station in Las Colinas. This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with Marty to learn more about this commission.
Interviewer: Marty, before we get into the story behind the commission, will you tell us a little about yourself?
Marty Ray: I am an artist and an art educator and have taught for over 50 years. In 2017 I retired from North Lake College, where I had been a professor of ceramics and sculpture for 40 years. My official title, which I’m proud of, is Professor Emerita of North Lake College. I’m just happy to say I’m an art educator, and then I’m an artist, with my primary media being ceramics. My work is represented by Craighead Green Gallery here in Dallas.
I’m married to an artist, Richard Ray. Sometimes we collaborate on artwork together, both in pottery and paintings. In October last year, the Craighead Green Gallery launched a show of our work together. After retirement, I’ve become very involved with the Goldmark Cultural Center, where I have a little studio. I am a founder of the White Rock Lake Artist Studio Tour where artists have been opening their studios for 27 years. This year we’re postponing it until 2021 because of safety issues. Many people who are reading your newsletter have probably visited my and Richard’s studios here in the White Rock Lake area.
Interviewer: How did you receive the commission?
Marty: Apparently, since I taught art at North Lake College, I was approached by DART to design one of the stations on the Orange Line. Although North Lake was one of the stations, they gave me a choice of whichever station I would want to design.
Interviewer: Which station did you finally select?
I had always passed the old Carpenter Ranch on my way to school and was just intrigued by the family that had developed Las Colinas, and so I chose to be the designer for this location rather than the North Lake station. The station is located right at the entrance of where Ben Carpenter and his wife entered the ranch.
I did a great deal of research about the Carpenter family and I visited the site. It was just rugged with trees and creeks, and although the Carpenters were gone, the old bois d’arc fence remained on the property.
Interviewer: Tell us about your design work.
As a station artist, you design everything. The artist is required to work with the community and DART. Their intent is that the station’s art will reflect the historical site. The important elements that are designed by an artist at every DART station are the columns, windscreens and the pavement.
Right now, I’m working on two designs I’ve planned for the columns; the windscreens have already been designed and produced. I am thrilled about the windscreens. The Carpenter family gave me access to historical family photographs to use on the screens.
One of my column panels has a rancher with his cattle herd and in the distance is Las Colinas. The ranch is where Ben Carpenter actually lived when he conceived the Las Colinas development. In my mind, that cowboy is Ben Carpenter or one of his ranchers.
When I first visited the location to get ideas for the column designs, there was a creek with turtles on a log. Cattle were still in the pasture as well. Near the creek with high grasses, a rabbit hopped by. I was barely starting to figure out a design for the 2nd panel, so a nature theme with animals I saw seemed perfect. I love this one!
An interesting part of this story is that I and five other artists worked on different stations along the Orange Line. We all worked together, presented our concepts, and were all thrilled when we finally were approved. Unfortunately, the station I had chosen was deferred because of the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009. All the other Orange Line stations opened with ribbon cuttings and I couldn’t believe it! My DART contacts said, “Oh, but, Marty, it will be built. It will.” Jump to 2020 in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and now we are building the station! DART decided to continue using my designs since they believed that historically the land needed to be represented as a tribute to the Carpenter family and to all the activities at the ranch.
Interviewer: Can you tell us a little about the process?
Marty: Since I’m a clay artist I originally wanted something on the columns to be made of clay. So I decided on a bas relief panels I would create using oil-based clay that would be cast in a stone like material. The oil clay never dries and is not get fired. My clay work is the “model” that will be used to make a mold for the castings. It has three-dimensional levels that cast shadows. When I complete the clay work, they will be delivered to the Dallas company Stone Legends, where molds will be made and the casting completed. Six copies of each design will be produced and cast in a stone like material. Next week I will select a color for the stone that is slightly darker than the limestone that will surround it.
The oil-based clay is new to me, and what’s really new is being concerned with undercuts along all contours (edges) in the design. Undercuts would prevent the mold from being released from the clay model. A giant challenge I’ve discovered is to have dark and light contrast of shadows with no undercuts!
My first challenge was dealing with the hard as rock clay, and softening it with heat to get it into each panel. About 40 pounds of clay is in each panel. This was a lot of work and not the art part I was anxious to begin. It took me two weeks to fill the first panel with clay before I ever started my design!
Interviewer: Can you tell us when we can all hop on a train for your ribbon cutting?
Marty: DART has said that they want to have the station open to the public and ready to use December 2020. They’re sticking to that schedule and continuing to build the station, even while practicing all of the safety guidelines.
My job is to get these panels finished and delivered to the casting company to make the molds. They will then clean them up for me to approve. After that, they will be delivered to the station and professionally installed on 12 columns that line the tracks. The columns are to be covered with a rough limestone pattern. My art panels will be in a contrasting stone color in the center of the columns. To see all this finally come together has been a 10 year wait.
Interviewer: How did your work evolve, and is there an underlying theme?
Marty: My interest working with clay took off when I took courses at the Creative Arts Center when it was in Oak Cliff and called the Octavio Medellin School of Sculpture. Octavio was just a fabulous teacher and sculpture was what he primarily taught. I’ve always been an artist, but at the time painting, drawing, and printmaking was my primary work. Clay, like it does to a lot of people, grabbed my attention and I’ve never tired of it.
My work is very narrative. Although I create pottery, my “pots” often give you a story. The work that I’m doing on this station is also a narrative. That’s why I chose Carpenter Ranch, because there was such a story behind the family and what took place at this location. The Carpenters actually made a kids’ playground there. They had a real rodeo, a miniature town, a working ranch with cattle and horses. They often invited community groups and young people to experience this rural setting in the ’50s, ’60s, and into the ’70s.
Interviewer: That’s interesting!
Marty: Yes. Those stories are going to be shown on the windscreens that I designed; a digital photographic collage, consisting of seven different panels that tell the history through images beginning with John Carpenter’s purchase of the lands in the 1920s. I can’t wait for the station to be finished. I think people will go to this station just to see, not necessarily my art, but to see the story, learn the history.
I loved learning about how the ranch evolved and was shared with others. I’ve met some people that actually participated in the rodeo and rode the horses out there.
Interviewer: It’s interesting in its own right, I think. It’s really terrific that DART is bringing art to the populace. Everyday commuters are experiencing art without having to step into a museum or art gallery.
Marty: Yes, and it will continue going forward since each new station will have an artist who will create a design that relates to the community at large or, in this case, the particular station’s site.
Interviewer: It was also thoughtful that the Carpenters shared their property with the general population.
Marty: Yes, the 4-H Clubs and Boys Scouts had activities there. The Carpenters donated part of their land for the University of Dallas campus as well as the North Lake College campus.
If you go out around North Lake College, you’ll see mesquite trees everywhere, and so I have mesquite trees in my bas relief. What struck me was the old bois d’arc fence that completely surrounded the ranch lands are partially still there. I understand the people developing the land now may plan to keep part of that fence in place.
Interviewed by Sharon Shero