News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

Halcyon Daze of the ‘Borg: the Photos

Halcyon Daze of the ‘Borg: A Photographic Memoir by Ray Troll
The small town of Lindsborg, Kansas is known as ‘Little Sweden USA’. It’s also the home of Bethany College where I went to art school and earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1977. After earning my MFA at Washington State University I returned there to teach from 1982 to 83.While living there I took many a ‘formal’ portrait of my fellow students, professors, working artists and town characters. In 2021 I exhibited this collection of photos at Lester Raymer’s Red Barn Studio and Museum and the Sandzen Memorial Gallery. It’s a truly unique glimpse into the art revolution that took place in this prairie college town.

Lindsborg’s Seventies art scene left an indelible mark on my life. These images, hopefully, convey the spirit and flavor of that unique time in a very small town in Kansas.

I moved to Lindsborg in January of 1974, to study art at Bethany College, a small Lutheran liberal arts school nestled between the expansive wheat fields of eastern Kansas and the winding banks of the Smoky Hill River. I had heard good things about the town, the college, and the art department. I was nineteen at the time, cocky, a bit arrogant and naively self-assured in my artistic abilities. I’d been raised in a family of six and was desperate to get out on my own and to make some sort of mark in the world.

I was eager to leave the big city of Wichita behind me, too, having spent a frustrating, unfulfilling semester at Wichita State University, unnoticed and lost in the crowd. I wanted to explore the creative life at a smaller school where I could make genuine connections with my professors and fellow students.

I bought a 35 mm camera and immersed myself in the world of photography, a form of artistic interpretation and creativity that resonated deeply with me at the time. There was a small darkroom in the art department that soon became my second home. I loved capturing moments from the world around me and seeing them magically reappear in the Dektol developer under the red light of the darkroom, thick with the acrid smell of the stop-bath and fixative. I was awestruck seeing images appear in the plastic trays as I rocked the chemicals back and forth.

I liked the idea of taking formal portraits, of trying to capture the essence of a person in my lens, sometimes with a touch of theatricality. I’d direct my subjects with minimal instructions, most often with a request to simply “go blank” and not to smile at the camera, to simply look at me. Smiles were too easy, too posed. I wanted something deeper, a connection of some sort. Maximize the mystery.

Was there something there in their expressions that revealed their inner thoughts, a flicker of emotion or bemusement? Were they tense, at ease, smirking just a bit, happy in the moment, or trying to figure out who I was and why I was pointing a camera at them?

Taking a breath, I pointed the camera.

It’s a vulnerable moment, preparing oneself to be studied, looked at closely. Our gazes met, the subjects judging me as well, assessing me and the awkward situation.

The visual conversation between the model and the artist is captured as the shutter snaps. We’ve been taught that to stare is rude and intrusive. A photograph though, allows you to linger and study the lines of a face, to stare into a stranger’s eyes, observe the curve of a nose, the slouching posture, the open shirt, the unkempt hair, all there in that one frozen moment of openness.

My subjects were all friends to some degree or other. Some were merely acquaintances, or people I admired or wanted to know better, a couple were much, much closer than that. Some were role models for me, artists making their way and I wanted to glean the secrets of their survival in the creative world. All of them affected my life, in the sense that we are all “who we meet.” Some became lifelong friends.

I don’t pretend to think I captured all the important artistic figures in town, far from it. These photos represent my small corner of that bygone scene. I regret that I never “formally” photographed Steve Scott, Bob Bosco, John Murphy, Lee Becker, Rip Carlson, Randy Just, Richard Klocke, Kim McLelland, Cindy Schott and so many more that were also important people to me.

My recollection of that era and my attraction to photography took on even more import when I realized that many of the people in this series of images are dead. As we age and lose people around us, facing our own mortality, I think of the adage that the closer you are to becoming history yourself, the more you appreciate history. I felt the urgency to share this body of work to commemorate their memories. I also want to acknowledge how much my time in Kansas transformed my own artistic DNA and the roots of my artistic style.

Something special happened in little Lindsborg back in the Seventies and early Eighties. Then, there were over a hundred studio art majors at Bethany College and four to five full time faculty. Now there are only a handful of studio art majors and two full time faculty. The diminishing numbers say one thing, about the world getting to be a tougher place and turning more toward “practical things” but there’s more to it than that. Maybe it was the cultural residue of the Sixties lingering in the air, but the excitement of creativity was palpable in that town, in the streets, in the bars, in the raucous parties in the “slums” above Main Street, the “keggers” down by the river and “re-has” out in the country.

The artistic tension was there for sure, inspiration drawn from one another, feeding off each other like artistic cannibals. Subtle rivalries played out over the years with attempts to outdo one’s peers, just enough to inspire them to fire right back with something bigger and bolder and maybe just a bit more outrageous.

I feel lucky that I knew this rich cast of characters who swam through my life like some half-forgotten dream now. Townies and gownies, all making beautiful things, lost in the countless paint strokes, cranking out prints, throwing pots, making jewelry, the young and the old alike, making music, partying, skinny dipping, making love in dark rooms, smoking pot in the back alleys and drinking Coors nonstop, like it was the water of life. Goddamn it was fun.

It’s easy to sound like a generational narcissist, extolling the vaulted and overly inflated reputation of the Sixties and Seventies crowd. I think the artistic fires that sometimes ignite in small towns are bound to burn out… for a time. They come and go, subsiding and coming back in waves.

The Swedish landscape painter Birger Sandzen lit a creative fuse in Lindsborg in the early 1900’s. Lester Raymer fed off that heat in the Fifties and Sixties and left his legacy to the town. Mike Hartung’s powerful body of work has only recently exploded into sight and I trust that its impact will be felt for decades to come. All of that artwork can still be found in Lindsborg, in public and private collections, and out on the streets.

The art endures.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

Drawn Together by Dinosaurs: Paleontologist and Artist are Longtime Collaborators

Unlikely art-science team-up leads to globe-spanning adventures

By Ben Hohenstatt

Tuesday, September 24, 2019 6:37pm ❙ NEWS CAPITAL CITY WEEKLY




The director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is

buddies with the Ketchikan artist behind Southeast Alaska’s punniest Tshirts.

Ray Troll, the man behind “Beevus and Halibutt-Head,” and Kirk Johnson,

who oversees the world’s largest natural history collection, have been

friends and collaborators for nearly 27 years in large because of Troll’s

cheeky work.


“Ray had built an exhibit at the Burke Museum in Seattle, and I knew about

his stu ,” Johnson said. in an interview with the Empire. “I worked in

Seattle, so I always saw Humpies from Hell and Spawn Till You Die Die. Back

in the early ’80s, they had a bunch of Ray Troll T-shirts. I walked into the

show, and my head exploded.”


“It was like, ‘The T-shirt guy does fossils,” Johnson added with Jeff Spicoli

affectation. “I was so excited.”Their longtime relationship is why both men were at the Alaska State

Museum on Tuesday. Johnson gave a speech at the museum since it is the

current site of a traveling exhibit inspired by the pair’s collaborative e orts

and a trip along most of North America’s western coast.

Troll and Johnson’s traveling history goes back a couple of decades, too.

A few years after the pair met, Johnson said he stopped by Ketchikan to talk

with Troll and to pitch the inimitable artist and self-described fossil nerd on

the idea of traveling to the Amazon Rain Forest.

“So he came to the Amazon, and that was the beginning of the whole

thing,” Johnson said.

That “whole thing” is a series of trips around the world and most of North

America that produced a pair of books — “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway” and

“Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.” The latter served as inspiration for the

traveling exhibition that’s been at the state museum since May and will be

there through Oct. 19.

Troll said throughout their travels, the two men have easily spent a full 365

days together.

“Easily a year of my life, a solid year of my 65 years,” Troll said.

It’s clear from talking to both Troll and Johnson each man has a high

appreciation for the other’s specialty.


“I like art, I always have, but I’m not really good at it,” Johnson said in an

interview with the Empire. “That’s how I became an artist collector.”

Troll said that’s exactly how he views his relationship with science.

Johnson said the blend of art with science “totally essential” to

communicating scientific concepts.


“Most scientists can’t communicate themselves out of a paper bag,” he

said. “There’s so many great images that could be made that are never

made.”Both men said science and art inspire thought and challenge conventional

thought. “They change your perceptions,” Troll said. Johnson expounded on the thought. “They give you new information, new ways of looking at things,” he said.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

Juneau Empire article about Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline exhibit

Dig this: Art and science collide in new Ray Troll exhibition

Ray Troll and friends’ work comes to Alaska State Museum

Juneau Empire, May 4, 2019 by Ben Hohenstatt

Ray Troll is a paleo hipster.

The Ketchikan artist many in Southeast Alaska know for his fish pun T-shirt designs liked the Earth before it was cool and is keenly interested in underground rocks.

“I’ve been a paleo nerd for my entire life,” Troll said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “I never gave up loving dinosaurs. Everything prehistoric. For me it’s kind of a mission to get people turned on to a prehistoric past. I think it’s really important for people to know the history of the Earth.”

Troll is willing to go to the mats for lesser-known prehistoric creatures, such as the Tully monster — a confusing ancient aquatic animal that defies easy classification — and desmostylians — a line of marine mammals that went extinct. Desmostylians’ range included Alaska, and the animals are thought to have resembled a hippo-walrus hybrid.

“We call them desmos for short,” Troll said.“Only the connoisseurs of paleo nerdom know about them. Some of them were the size of elephants.”

Troll’s interest in paleontology goes as far back as he can remember. He said his earliest artistic memory is drawing a dinosaur with a crayon at age 4. “I’m 65 years old, and I’m still drawing dinosaurs,” Troll said.

That lifelong fascination helped lead to a 26-year-and-counting friendship with paleontologist Kirk Johnson, now director of the Smithsonian National Museum of National History, and an expansive fossil-hunting road trips along North America’s coast.

That 10,000-mile, 250-day trip led to “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline,” a traveling exhibition organized by the Anchorage Museum that will be in Juneau at the Alaska State Museum through Oct. 19, and a book of the same title.

“This is the second book with Kirk,” Troll said. “We’ve probably driven around the Earth together. We’ve done trips to the Amazon and all over the west. He shared a lot of his knowledge with me and vice versa.”

Troll is an artist with evident exuberance for ancient plants and animals, and Johnson is a scientist who was once an art major.“He’s the scientist I always wanted to be, and I’m the artist he wanted to be,” Troll said. “It’s a melding of two disciplines.”

The cross-pollination of science and art is evident in the pieces in the “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.” During a docent tour previewing the exhibition, Troll was able to point out era-appropriate plants in his work and explain the anatomy of the long-dead creatures the pieces depict. Troll said the exhibition has been tailored for its Juneau audience and most of the pieces on display are related to animals that millions of years ago thrived in Alaska.

“This represents about 10 years worth of work, and there are about 60 pieces of art in the exhibit,” Troll said. ” Thirty of them being original framed pieces and the other 30 being digital outputs. “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline” also features some works not made by Troll, including a pachyrhinosaurus statue made by Gary Staab that depicts the triceratops-like dinosaur bursting through the museum wall that seems destined to be a selfie backdrop.

The exhibition also included a handful of fossils, including bones from ichthyosaurs — an enormous marine reptile that swam the waters of Southeast Alaska. “They were the size of dinosaurs, but they were in the water,” Troll said. “We’ll show some massive ribs and some vertebrae from those. I think it will blow some minds that we had these right in Southeast Alaska.”

The collection also includes what Troll considers the pinnacle of his fossil-hunting exploits: the tooth of a Nanuqasaurus. Nanuqasauruses were a tyrannosaur that lived around the North Slope, and Troll found a tooth from one of the carnivores on the banks of the Colville River.

“It was a big moment for me,” Troll said. “When I found it, I cried.”

Know & Go

What: “Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.”

Where: Alaska State Museum, 395 Whittier St.

When: The exhibition will be up through Oct. 19. Summer hours are 9-5 p.m. daily and begin May 6.

Admission: Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors and free for those 18 and younger.



News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

Prairie Ocean: Long Time No Sea: Show

Prairie Ocean: Long Time No Sea –  works by Ray Troll of Ketchikan, Alaska, and Chuck Bonner of Scott City, Kansas – through March 16, 2019.

At the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg, Kansas.

PDF Flyer and Statement by Ray and Chuck for the show.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline

Based on the upcoming book with my pal Kirk Johnson (due out in the Fall of 2018 from Fulcrum Publishing) this show includes over 30 new framed original drawings & paintings, 30 large digital artworks, fab fossils on loan from the University of Alaska Museum of the Arts. The show is currently being exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California and is up from November 10, 1918 to March 17, 2019.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Exhibit

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

Buzzsaw Sharks of Idaho

Now through the summer of 2019, the Buzzsaw Sharks of Idaho Show is at the Idaho Museum of Natural History at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.

Our Buzzsaw Shark exhibit has traveled the country, delighting audiences exceeding over 500,000 people. We’re excited to bring this one-of-a-kind attraction back to Pocatello, literally where it all began. The Buzzsaw shark–Idaho’s weirdest fossil–swam the ancient ocean that once covered our state eons ago.

This whorl-toothed shark occupied the seas 270 million years ago. Now, Idaho’s Buzzsaw Shark is coming home to Pocatello and will be the featured exhibit at the IMNH. The exhibit artfully puts the Helicoprion shark on display.  Its fossils fascinate both paleontologists and exhibit visitors alike. This exhibit will run through the summer of 2019.

This exhibit is proudly sponsored by J.R. Simplot.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

The Whorl Tooth Sharks of Idaho

Shark week is every week in Idaho this year!

 The Idaho Museum of Natural History on the ISU campus in Pocatello opened a major new exhibit based on a giant prehistoric shark found in the phosphate mines of Idaho. “The Whorl Tooth Sharks of Idaho” opened on June 22 2013, and runs through the end of the year. 

 The exhibit features a wide array of fossils of the 270-million-year-old shark called Helicoprion, along with original artworks by Alaskan artist Ray Troll, life-sized sculptures of the shark bursting through the museum walls by sculptor Gary Staab, original music, a short documentary and much more. There are children’s activities too, so it promises to be fun for the whole family.

 The exhibit is a unique combination of science, art, music and humor. “The fossils are spiraling coils of razor-sharp shark teeth and are beautiful things just to look at,” said Leif Tapanila, ISU associate professor of geosciences and IMNH earth sciences curator. Opening day activities on June 22 include a slideshow by Troll and Tapanila at 2 p.m., guided tours of the exhibit from 3 to 4 p.m., and a book and T-shirt signing by Troll.

 Tapanila was the lead scientist on recently published research on Helicoprion that unlocked many of the mysteries surrounding the shark. “For the last 100 years scientists really had no idea where the coil of teeth went on the shark’s body and it’s been open to some very wild speculation,” Tapanila said. “We CT scanned our best fossil of the shark and we now know exactly where the coil of teeth was positioned. We nailed it!”

 The shark has intrigued many people over the last few decades and Ray Troll is probably the ancient shark’s biggest fan, according to Tapanila. “I started working with the ISU crew a few years ago when an undergraduate student named Jesse Pruitt contacted me wanting to know more about the shark,” said Troll.Pruitt’s query reignited Troll’s passion for the shark. As the new research progressed Troll was an active participant in the work revising versions of the shark’s appearance as the work progressed.

 “Scientists need artists to bring fossils alive,” Tapanila said. “Working together we can dial-in the most realistic versions of the past.”

Illustrations featured in the new exhibit show the progression of art and science, and many of the fossils are being displayed for the first time.

 This exhibit is made possible by the Anne Staton Voilleque Charitable Foundation, The William J & Shirley A Maeck Family Foundation, the Hitz Foundation, and The Monsanto Fund.

 The Idaho Museum of Natural History is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Entry is $5 adults and $1 children pre-K to grade 12.

 For more information visit the IMNH website

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History Exhibit

My latest exhibit is down in beautiful Northern California at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, right next to Monterey. They have 40 + original drawings, large print-outs, wacky limericks, an original soundtrack by my pal Don Kenoyer, plus cool specimens, models, tables, etc. The heart of the show is a slew of colored pencil drawings I did for a mural project in Pacific Grove with Roberto Salas and Memo Jauregui. The show opened on October 1 and ran until February 1, 2012. You can check out a slideshow gallery of the exhibit by clicking right here.

You can hear samples from Don Kenoyer’s ‘Green Seas/Blue Seas’ soundtrack online at

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Gallery Shows

“Amazon Voyage” Exhibit

Early in 2005 I produced seven new linoleum block prints based on the “Seven Perils of the Amazon” for the “Amazon Voyage” exhibit. The exhibit is loosely organized around the perils, so these were key design elements. I found the seven “Plagues” to be tremendously inspiring, especially the notorious little catfish called the Candirú (so much so that I even wrote a little song about it). The prints are hand colored with watercolors.