Running Toward Something

Ray Gamradt

The Before

“I... I have to leave.”

I thought for sure the rambling equation on the whiteboard would take the professor one more footstep to write. One more precious step, that difference between freedom and phase diagrams. As it was, he stared right through me as my momentum carried me the rest of the way out the door, my stammered non-excuse saying everything. Trout beckoned. Or maybe it was the elk that day. Or, perhaps even more likely, the sun was shining and anything short of dropping my pack at a run would be a sin against my youth.

Then followed my career in structural engineering. Maybe career is too strong of a word, like using the term era to describe that time I wore a tuxedo all the way through my friends' wedding. My body was dying at an accelerated rate and my youth was again demanding answers. Just as when ducking out of class, I had one foot out the door when I told my boss and friend that “I've gotta bail. I'm sorry.” He gave the blessing of someone who knew me well enough to know that I was done apologizing to myself, and to know that I wasn't coming back.

So ended the age of engineering. 5 years, 6 months and 3 days. The epoch of the cubicle. That lifetime spent in those uncomfortable, slow shoes.

The After

By that time, opportunities in the realm of art had arisen. Gallery exhibitions, solo shows, awards and commissions; the fodder for a resume, I suppose, though it had been long clear that the numbers themselves would never justify abandoning a professional job for the foolery of a career in art.

Very fortunately I married a reckless woman.

We left propriety behind us to charge ahead with a questionable life. Having moved to Argentina for a bit, we were taken in by a family who didn't speak a word of English and who were keen on sneaking us into dirtbike races. Moto races, that is. Rent was a charcoal portrait of the 94-year old matriarch, helping illuminate the notion that art has qualities beyond its price point.

After moving back home to Alaska we had an unreasonable little boy. And another, who may be slightly less unreasonable but a touch less quiet. We bought a tired old Colony house in downtown Palmer, where we are trying to imprint parts of ourselves on the structure, to feel its roots and our own anchoring us to the ground that we love.

The Present Walk

And now we're trying to learn what it means to grow and perhaps thrive in this one brief life. It's what everyone is trying to figure out. I could speak about charcoal technique and artistic inspiration, but those are just the details. When I think about the walk that we are on and I wonder how my art fits in, I think about our constant search for presence and beauty and hospitality and vulnerability. We fail with enthusiasm and succeed sporadically, and I like to think that our people know we have space for them.

When I was making all of the good and proper decisions my legs were always quivering with the need to flee. Gotta go. Maybe what I was running toward was art. Or the agitated, evolving, perpetually unexpected life that art offers.

Thanks for reading this biography that is at the same time much too long and much too short. Please pop over to my studio where hopefully part of your story can meet part of my story.



761 S. Gulkana St. (A few blocks east of the Museum. The green house with the red chimney...)

Palmer, Alaska