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Best Visual Artist
José Ray

“I feel bad saying it, but it’s actually been a pretty good year for me,” laughs José Ray.

Odd to have one’s best year in 2020, yes, but Ray’s win for Best Visual Artist comes on the upswing of a decidedly positive year for the artist, who’s had solo exhibitions at Sulfur Studios and the Mansion on Forsyth.

Artist, by the way, is never too vague a term to describe Ray: at once a painter, illustrator, DJ, and whatever else, he’s a true creator through and through.

But it’s taken Ray a while to get to this point.

“All through my 20s and early 30s, I was nose to the grindstone, trying to make ends meet, trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself,” he remembers. “Now I’m getting that balance figured out.”

Balance is very important for this Gemini; he’s interested in finding and maintaining balance, especially as we approach a contentious political season. “I think we all need to chill out a little bit,” he confides.

Ray’s work has always been eye-poppingly bright, particularly his latest floral work. He’s taken the time during quarantine to explore other ideas, such as pouring resin over his pieces and working in a darker color palette.

For devoted fans, the moodier pieces may be a jolt, but he’s always been interested in that look.

“I can’t say I’ve ever been a goth kid, but I’ve identified with Dracula and Frankenstein—I love that whole culture,” he raves. “I love walking around the woods or in graveyards—not in a creepy way! It’s a very peaceful and grounding environment and setting to be in.”

Indeed, Ray has gone more into nature lately, kayaking around Savannah’s waterways and taking some time away. After a lifetime of learning balance, he’s putting it into practice.

“I’m always busy,” he admits, “but now I’m fine-tuning my busyness and putting it all together.”

Runner-up: Panhandle Slim