Crystalline, Compulsive, Gritty, Optimistic, Hallucinogenic – these are pretty hefty adjectives but for me they aptly describe the genius and raw power of the late Ramojus ‘Ray’ Mozoliauskas who was, in my opinion, one of the most creative forces in American memorial art design over the last century.
Ray, originally from Lithuania, immigrated to the US in the late 1940’s and became a resident of Chicago. That Ray made Chicago his home is understandable as the city is home to the largest Lithuanian population outside of the home country. Between the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s, Ray became good friends and a creative collaborator with Bert Gast and his sons Tom, John and Jim. Together, Ray and Bert combined forces to introduce modernity and a contemporary theme into cemetery landscapes; reinventing what a tombstone could look like.
There’s not a lot of cemetery landscapes that I find interesting or inspirational. St. Casimir’s cemetery in Chicago, where the majority of Ray’s life work is on display, is one of the most inspiring ones I have visited. The mature and sculpture rich landscape elevates and amplifies everything that makes the world good – culture, art, community, vocation, belief.
Much of Ray’s sculptural work can be viewed over the 150+ acres. His use of textures, lettering, stone, glass, steel, and fiberglass stand out unlike any work I have ever come across in any North American cemetery. And for that Chicago has to be thankful to the people who administer St. Casimir’s allowing this body of artistic sensibility to flourish.
Ray passed away in October 2010. He deserves special acknowledgement as this quality of person with raw talent doesn’t come around very often.