Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 14, 2010

For those who are planning to attend the opening of Ray's exhibit on Saturday, April 17th, from 4 to 7 p.m., the GPS address is:

Framers Market and Gallery
1728 Fordham Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC
TEL: 919-929-7137

Today I am thinking about "The Transcending Power of Art."

Now that Ray and I are going to be on NPR this Thursday the 15th, and friends from California to Vermont have been notified via email, I am stopping for a moment before the show is on the air to think about what this means to me. The woman who is producing our interview at WUNC, Anita Woodley, called at 8 this morning to check on a fact, and only then did I think, this interview will be heard by thousands. (The Story with Dick Gordon gets over 80,000 hits a month!) Dick and Anita and the other producers do this every day, but remember that Ray does not have a car that will get him to Richmond to the doctor, nor do he and his mother have a telephone that is active more than a few hours each month. Their typical outing over the past decade is to the supermarket a mile away.

On Saturday, Ray will have an opening of his exhibit in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I will pick his mother and him up at 2:30 in South Hill, and hopefully my 92-year-old mother will come along (one of Ray's fans) and we will drive the hour and a half to the gallery. Ray's mother's vision will hopefully be restored on the 20th, but on the "big day" she will not be able to see the paintings.

I am in as much awe as anyone who hears the story about how all of this unfolded. Perhaps this is why my eyes welled with tears when Dick Gordon asked me on the show what Ray and his mom Rose have given me (I'm paraphrasing). I was tongue-tied at that moment (actually, I was too emotional to give a rational response). When I saw Ray's painting in the empty store-front window last year, I wanted to own one of his paintings. When I met him, and his mother Rose, and became a witness to their lifestyle, I was appalled. I wanted to help, but help, to me, implies rescuing through an act of pity. I began to see myself as a vehicle, not as a rescuer.

Maybe I wanted others to share what I experienced while looking at the painting "Main Street" that day when I felt my heart open. Then, when I went to Ray's and his mother Rose's apartment, and saw how dark and bleak the interior was, I could not believe the vitality in the paintings. The color, the movement, the light. I thought about how they transcended the physical darkness.

The next thing that strikes me is the sense of joy this experience has brought to all of us who have stepped in, either to buy a painting, or to voice encouragement, or to do bigger things. There were others before me. I met the pharmacist who had bought several paintings over the years, and a former bookstore owner in South Hill (now 85) who owns five of Ray's paintings. I laugh when I think of store owner Jimmy Martin who we talk about on The Story. He was struggling himself I found out later, but he still gave Ray a hundred dollars for the painting that would stir my interest and go on to win a juried art show award. We have become good friends, and I love to enter his store and hear him telling "the story." A gentleman in his store said to me one day recently, "You must be an intellectual to have known that was a good painting." I decided not to launch into how I responded with my heart.

Ray and I feel that the exhibit on Saturday is in honor of our 85-year-old friend Robert Pully, who adopted Ray and Rose, and drove them to doctors' appointments in Richmond and helped Ray set up booths at various fairs. Former manager of the Algonquin Hotel in New York, Robert, who died in January of this year, was dapper and funny and always encouraging. The day after the exhibit in Chapel Hill on April 17th, we will attend Robert's memorial service.

We are creating a "gratitude" list next week, but I can't sign off before mentioning the people at WUNC radio, especially Dick Gordon and Anita Woodley, who are extraordinary in their mission to share peoples' stories. Mary Anne Steinis, who offered Ray an exhibit two minutes after hearing about him, has turned this Saturday's opening into a community affair with people from her church pitching in. My sister and brother-in-law, Harriet and Dick Gaillard, have leapt in with both feet. They put me on to photographer Jill Batchelor and Jill in turn brought in Susan Reda, who put the word out.

I said to Mary Anne one day, "There is so little stress around all this. People step in at exactly the moment they are needed, and each time Ray has a financial crisis, another painting sells." "That is called grace," she said.

Ray said to me the other day, without a trace of self-pity, "Never once in my life have I received the respect that I am getting now."

"You deserve it, Ray," I said. But that is a blog for another day.

Until Mary Anne's website, is permanent, prints that you see on can be ordered directly from Mary Anne's gallery. The address and phone number is listed above. Her email will be provided tomorrow.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have entered this website. Please feel free to leave your comments and to let me know if you are having problems ordering prints,

Janet Hubbard

To purchase Ray's original paintings and Giclee prints of paintings featured, contact: MaryAnne, Framer's Market & Gallery owner
via phone 919-929-7137 or email:


  1. Great and inspiring. Well done.

  2. Hello Janet,
    what an amazing adventure!
    Except it isn't something in an old history book or from any sort of inspirational novel published last year, it continues to unfold at this moment... (grin)

    Thank you for your part in this very intriguing episode of grace, hope, and charity at this moment in our national history. Thank you also for discovering and unveiling such a Ray of light for the rest of us... (wink)

    Until that time... Earl J.

  3. As a South Hillbilly ex-pat, now a Chapel Hillbilly, I turned on the car radio today to 'The Story' as I began my errands and was stunned that the first words out of the car speaker were "...South Hill, Virginia." That hasn't happened before, probably won't again. I did not move my family to South Hill until 1987, well after Mr. Matthews had moved to Richmond, so we don't know each other, but I know well his painted subjects, Jimmy Martin (lightning in a bottle, himself) and his store in the foreground of 'Main Street,' which is South Hill's main street but is actually named South Mecklenburg Avenue. I look forward to the reception Saturday, meeting artist Matthews and any of the South Hillbillies, genuine or honorary, who also attend. Congratulations, Mr. Matthews! David Bordsen

  4. Listened to you on The Story today. Beautiful work, excellent story. Congratulations Ray, and good luck in the future!

  5. Imagine my surprise, while driving home listening to my favorite program on VPR... I heard a familiar voice. At first I thought, no I am imagining... then I heard Mr. Gordon ask "Janet" a question. Janet... Janet... I know this Janet!

    Wonderful story. Wonderful people. I am so happy I left work 15 minutes early today!

    Kudos to you and to Mr. Matthews!

    Heidi Vester Silman

  6. This is a great story,very inspiring. I am so happy to hear of an artist being admired and encouraged. Keep up the wonderful work.

  7. I couldn't stop listening. A true inspiration. Janet is someone who really "pays it forward." Friends like that are a rare and powerful positive thing. I'll bet after this program all of Ray's paintings will be sold!

  8. What a fascinating, joyous story. How I wish I lived close enough to Chapel Hill to attend the showing! I grew up in a smallish town in South Carolina and Ray's paintings draw me back into memories of that time and place. Alas, I now live in Minnesota and while I can't be in North Carolina tomorrow, I will certainly be thinking of all of you there! Carolyn

  9. I just posted a comment to one of Ray's posts, Now that I read this I am even more sure that your mother and father were friends of my parents, Buck & Juel Duke. I knew Robert Nelson Pully as a child and am sorry that I missed reconnecting with him but will think of him often, as I have all through my life. I remember when his store opened in South Hill, as well as the Martin Collection though we were no longer living in South Hill then. Now I'm one of the Chapel Hillbillies! I think we just might have to connect up somewhere!
    Juel Duke, Jr. (aka Peedy, PDB or Juel D. as a child)