Dorothy McCray Biography

Dorothy McCray




Dorothy McCray [née Westaby], painter, printmaker, educator, and gallerist, was born on 13 October 1915 in Madison, South Dakota. Her parents encouraged her to study art and provided private lessons and sent her to summer school at the Minneapolis School of Design. She attended the State University of Iowa [now the Iowa State University] where she studied painting and art history. In her second year at Iowa, she studied with Grant Wood and his associate Francis McCray. When Dorothy completed her bachelor’s degree, she wed Francis in Stone City, Iowa.

In 1948, McCray joined the faculty of Western New Mexico College (now the Western New Mexico University) in Silver City where she taught for thirty-three years. She stated, “I was hired by the WNMU to teach lithography and painting. The university had a lot of the Bavarian limestone used for the lithographic process at a time when they were scarce and expensive.” In 1954, McCray took a year’s leave of absence so that she could attend the California School of Arts and Crafts where she studied lithography with Leon Goldin.  When asked about tackling such an arduous process, McCray replied, “Why do people do anything? It‘s the challenge. I enjoyed experimenting and exploring new ways of expression. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to understand students’ needs and to encourage them to pursue a chosen direction. I couldn’t accomplish that without having worked with those media myself. Even when expressionism was quite daring, I worked with it in an effort to understand what the artist was doing, and the intent of the new approach.” Her lithographs were featured and the Fourth and Fifth International Biennials of Contemporary Color Lithography in 1956 and 1957.

After Francis died in 1960, McCray kept working as a teacher and exploring as an artist. She sought advanced studies at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and, in the summer of 1970, she studied intaglio printmaking with Ernest Freed at the University of Florence in Italy. Her work was featured in over thirty solo exhibitions and, when she retired from teaching in 1981, the art building on campus was named the McCray Art Building in her honor. Dorothy McCray was given the Governor's Award for Excellence and Achievement in the Arts in 1992, and in 1993, a solo exhibition of her work was mounted at the Francis McCray Gallery on campus.

Dorothy McCray’s work is represented in the collections of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; the New Mexico Capitol Art Collection, Santa Fe; the Syracuse University Art Museum, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.

Dorothy Westaby McCray died in Silver City, New Mexico on 6 November 2008.