Ray Monde’s art studio is covered in scraps of paper. Magazines, newspapers, cardboard, and unidentifiable little shapes litter the walls, floor, and every visible surface. Child-sized mountains line the walls, but there is an alcove hinting at a new project too–papier-mâché vases and a magazine’s photo of Lil NasX. There’s an inscrutable cardboard creature on the floor: three perfectly round baubles atop a sawhorse.
Paper–and making a mess–has always come naturally to Ray Monde. “I grew up on a cattle ranch,” he said. “And I wasn’t very good at it. Whenever my brothers would get frustrated with me they’d say, ‘Go inside and cut out your shapes.’ ”
Ray moved with his husband from Australia to Seattle just before the pandemic. Instead of being cooped up, they hit the road to explore their new home. “I quickly realized that Washington’s landscape is far different than Australia’s,” said Ray. Gesturing at the towering mountain collages behind him, he added, “It was really inspiring and enabled me to sort of reinvent myself as an artist, to tell the story of my new home.”
Seattle Restored enables self-expression
“I think when there is art in a storefront, the window becomes alive and awakened,” said Ray. “People realize there is something happening here. It shows that this space is cared for.”
At the formerly vacant window where Ray Monde was placed through Seattle Restored, the Puget Sound is celebrated. Mini houses and boats dot the 3D diorama against the backdrop of colorful mountains towering above the waves. In the distance, a collaged Mt. Rainier lets passersby know that something powerful is happening in this space.
“I was planning on just hanging some artwork,” said Ray. “But once I saw the space I realized I want to do a diorama of the Puget Sound!”
The Reckoning, as the art display is called, is one of many Seattle Restored art activations throughout the city. “What’s wonderful about Seattle Restored,” said Ray, “is that it has made space for me to just create without limits. As an artist, you are of course expressing yourself, but in the back of your mind you’re always thinking, are people going to like this? Are they going to want to buy it?”
Ray says that constraint always affects the reactive process to a certain degree. “But with this project, I have just been exploring whatever I feel drawn to,” he added.
“When they look at my work, I want viewers to put into perspective our everyday concerns,” said Ray. “Whatever troubles they’re having today, it pales next to the geological timeframe of Earth. So, we need to nurture and respond to the natural world.” Gazing at the human-sized landscapes, painstakingly pieced together from issues of Vogue and Vanity Fair, it’s not difficult to hear the slow creak of tectonic plates and think about the long-lasting effects of climate change.
The Reckoning brings the monolithic majesty of the Puget Sound landscapes into downtown. We appreciate those artists who spark thought and cause us to reckon with our surroundings.
Visitors can see the installation 24/7. Visit Ray Monde’s website to learn more about what he’s working on.
Address: 4019 21st Ave W
Seattle, WA 98119
Open hours: Window Art Display & Window Shopping
Dates: January 1 – June 30, 2023