Photography by Michael Davis
Most people consider their homes an extension of themselves, but sculptor and artist Ray Fiero takes this idea—like most of his ideas—to the next level. “This is my place. No one lived here before, and no one will live here after. When my time comes, I’m going to sit on a coffee table, pour gasoline on my head, and light this place on fire.”
Fiero leads with his id, a driving force that saturates every aspect of his personality, his creations, and his most treasured possession: an idyllic cabin compound with an outdoor bar, majestic guesthouse, and on-premise work studio. Sitting on Moroccan cushions in his living room and listening to the sounds of Memphis Minnie, Fiero swigs a glass of red wine and lights up Parliament after Parliament, delicately placing the bottle on his hand-made coffee table.
“I live in a state of complete contrast. I may wake up, listen to some beautiful Japanese music and tend to my garden, then get drunk in the afternoon, and blow something up in my front yard.”
Though Fiero is known for his figurative painting and intricate sculptures, his real passion is his music. It’s what saved him from the life of meaninglessness that defined his late teens. “I was certainly a troubled kid, always getting thrown in jail for selling pot, crashing cars, what have you.” At 19, he picked up and drove to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a musician. With encouragement from his then-girlfriend Christy—now his wife and perpetual muse—Fiero signed up for art school. “I love making art, but the rock star thing almost appeals to me more than the art star thing. I don’t like the art world at all. It’s stupid. It’s too self-important. And there’s one thing I never enjoyed about the art: selling it.”
After art school, following a slew of rejection letters from galleries, Fiero got his first big break to exhibit his work in New York. The show featured mostly paintings of enigmatic women exuding a hyper-longing, emotive pathos, but Fiero had already moved on. “When somebody asked me to build a big sculpture, I spent a winter in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse with a single light bulb and a hundred rats. I worked with cheap metal; I was dirty, tired, cold, bleeding—my hands were completely cut up. And I was so satisfied. It wasn’t the money; it was the process.”
Fiero’s biggest fear is to be constrained into making one form of art, whether that’s painting, sculpture, or even music (he plays in rock band Broken Guru with his wife). The thought of doing the same thing over and over makes him cringe. “When you get pigeonholed into doing something, people expect that of you, and then it’s just a job. And art shouldn’t be a job,” he says. “Unfortunately, that’s the problem with success in painting or sculpting, or even music: all of a sudden you have to fit a genre. And if you don’t, people either become confused or lose interest.”
Fiero is truly a man of contrasts and his art is paradoxical. It’s gentle yet overpowering, tortured but also serene. His ideas emerge from a stream of consciousness that originates in his vision of the final product. He doesn’t work with an end goal: the end goal is his work. “I see it and I have to make it, and I only make art because I want it. I always want things to feel like they’re rough and almost unfinished. That’s just me.”