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When asked to recap his life so far, Ray rattles off a list that mixes the mundane with the earth-shattering: "I had a good childhood, got an education, worked for a living â?? I lost some friends, lost contact with my [family], got hurt by one of society's problems -- crime among blacks -- and caught HIV." His frank, no-frills explanation may make it seem like he takes it all in stride, but Ray admits that it's not always so easy. HIV "radically changed my life but â?? I deal with it as best I can," he says.
HIV hasn't been the only obstacle Ray has had to overcome in recent years. He's become estranged from his family and had to cope with the death of his partner, Bob. However, Ray believes his struggles have helped him become a prolific artist: "My thoughts and the tragedies that I've been through [caused me to be creative]," he says. "I've created close to 80 or 100 works and am going to keep doing [just that]." The trick to staying motivated is to "do what you've always wanted to do but were too afraid when you were HIV negative," he says.
Indeed, Ray says that his art has "strengthened his determination to live." No doubt rediscovering love has strengthened him as well: Ray has a new love in his life.