Jackson Hole News and Guide

By Tibby Plasse



RAY PHILLIPS, Sheriff, 2023

Mixed Media on Canvas, 29” x 63”

Living in the layers of art is what Ray Phillips does best. His style takes well-known iconography like Popeye and Milburn Pennybags (the guy with the monocle) and Western icons like Clint Eastwood and revisits their widely known symbolism to find new meaning.


By trade, Phillips was a graphic designer and advertising director for decades. But along the way, he picked up a paintbrush at night after getting home from the office.


“I would create a piece, and then I would paint over it and keep painting over the same canvas,” Phillips said from his house outside of Durango, Colorado, his home after a 50-year career in his birthplace of Houston.


Layers are the hallmark of Photoshop, an application Phillips has used since the beginning of his career like in screen printing and making T-shirts. The stacking is a trademark of his painting style, too.

“The reveal is when you lift up the work,” he said.

The imperfections of the stacking help create the work.


“If everything was perfect, it would be like a poster,” Phillips said. “I actually leave in several mistakes. I used to go back and fix stuff. And now when I see mistakes, it’s not so much a mistake. I am going to leave it because that’s what sort of makes it human.”


A sense of nostalgia permeates Phillips’ work, and he openly owns that much of it comes from flashbacks of his childhood.


“I watched a lot of Westerns with my dad, so all the old-school Clint Eastwood, Gunsmoke, all that stuff,” he said. 


“There was no remote back then; I was the remote. But the fun part is putting a modern twist to it, and not make it just a Western. That’s the fun part, taking the old and ratcheting it up.”


Phillips lost an integral figure in his life recently — his mother. She supported him as an artist, a musician and as a son. As her dementia worsened, he spent more and more time being a caretaker than in his studio.


This new show will feature several new pieces and a new era for Phillips. Opening reception for “Merge,” a namesake honoring the many layers it takes to create his pieces, will take place from 5-8 p.m. Thursday at Diehl Gallery. 

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