Fellow: Awarded 2011
Field of Study: Science Writing
Competition: US & Canada
From his tree-lined studio, high on a hill above the Tongass Narrows in rain-swept Ketchikan, Alaska, Ray Troll draws and paints fishy images that migrate into museums, books, and magazines and onto t-shirts sold around the planet. Basing his quirky, aquatic images on the latest scientific discoveries, Ray brings a street-smart sensibility to the worlds of ichthyology and paleontology.
Ray moved to Alaska in 1983 to spend a summer helping his big sister Kate start a seafood retail store. The fish store is long gone but Ray is not. There's something about Alaska that has led four of the Troll siblings to call the state "home."
Ray earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, in 1977 and an M.F.A. in studio arts from Washington State University in 1981. In 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the University of Alaska Southeast. In 2007 he was given a gold medal for "distinction in the natural history arts" by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and in 2006 was given the Alaska Governor’s award for the arts. In 2011 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship along with Dr. Kirk Johnson for their book project "Cruisin the Eternal Coastline: West Coast Fossils from Baja to Barrow." A month after that award Ray was also given the Rasmuson Distinguished Artist Award.
Troll's unique blend of art and science culminated in his traveling exhibit Dancing to the Fossil Record, a major show that opened at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 1995. The huge exhibit included Ray's original drawings, gigantic fossils, fish tanks, murals, an original soundtrack, a dance floor, an interactive computer installation, and the infamous “Evolvo” art car. In 1997 the exhibit traveled to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport and in 1998 it hit the streets of Philadelphia at the Academy of Natural Sciences. The tour ended in 1999 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. By that time it had grown to 14,000 square feet.
Ray followed that tour a few years later with Sharkabet, a Sea of Sharks from A to Z. Venues included the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Alaska State Museum, and the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.
Ray went on to act as the art director for the Miami Museum of Science's Amazon Voyage traveling exhibit and now has another touring show based on his book Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway with Dr. Kirk Johnson. He has illustrated and co-authored eleven books over the course of his career.
He and his wife, Michelle, run the Soho Coho gallery in Ketchikan, appropriately situated in an old historic house of ill repute located on a salmon spawning stream. Ray believes that everyone should be in a band regardless of talent or ambition. Holding true to that ethic he leads a band of musical renegades called the Ratfish Wranglers.
He has appeared on the Discovery Channel, lectured at Cornell, Harvard, and Yale, shown work at the Smithsonian and has even had a fish named after him (a New Zealand species of ratfish called Hydrolagus trolli). Not too shabby for a t-shirt wearing kinda’ guy.