This ongoing Population series began in 2007 with paintings of friends and family in his hometown of Pasadena. Since then, the series has been shown and expanded upon, in museums around the country. In each city the work travels to, Turner creates a “population” of portraits or “head paintings”, as Ray Turner calls them.
With each new exhibit, the population grows and Turner asks each museum to select living, local subjects for his portraits, from all strata of society. Once he has narrowed his focus to the subject’s head, looking directly into our (via the artist’s) eyes, as Matt Stromberg notes, “Locals may be able to tell, but once the paintings leave their hometown, the societal roles attached to their subjects are left behind . . freed from their previous lives, each face that Turner paints joins those around it as part of a new, ever-expanding narrative.”
His paint handling often suggests abstraction, maintaining a tension between illusion and reality and this tension is heightened by his decision to paint primarily on glass. In an essay, Peter Frank has said that, “In his “Population” series Turner appoints himself documentarian, looking at what a populace looks like. On one level, the realization of the work entailing the rendering of myriad faces comprising a cross-section, is a performance, the carrying out of selected procedures; on another it is an overarching conceptual artwork . .”
As Ray Turner has written, “What has continued to motivate me is the common thread of our human experiences from the joys and sorrows, to the places in between, where the mysteries gather for me.” R ay Turner’s work has been shown in galleries and museums across the U.S., including the Akron Museum of Art, Wichita Art Museum, Huntington Museum, Maryland Academy of Art Museum, Pasadena Museum of California Art and many others.