Ray Underwood Primary Source Description

Ray Underwood (1953-1993) was one of the millions of people to die from AIDS. Underwood’s friends and family created a quilt that was intended to be included as part of the AIDS Quilt. This page will describe in detail Ray Underwood’s panel of the AIDS Quilt.

Underwood’s panel is the second vertical panel from the bottom left


Description of the Panel

Ray Underwood’s panel is part of block #4161 of the AIDS Quilt. It is located in the bottom left hand corner, second from the edge. It is pictured vertically. The panel looks as if it could have been designed by a professional artist because of its high quality craftsmanship.  The quilt is made of one single fabric, which hints at the fact that the design was probably painted on a canvas and then photographed and printed onto the quilt fabric. The majority of the quilt is a painting of beautiful scenery in nature. The painting depicts the sun shining through the clouds onto a mountaintop that overlooks a valley that leads to a lake. The bottom portion of the panel contains images of Underwood, several of his poems, a picture of a rose, a Japanese symbol, and a hummingbird. In the center of the mountain the designer included lyrics written by Underwood for the song “Some Wings,” included in the film Almost an Angel.

Ray Underwood’s Panel


Bottom section of panel












Writings Included with the Panel

The NAMES Project has stored a letter, written by Rilla Underwood and addressed to the NAMES Project, with Underwood’s panel. The letter provides details of the panel and acknowledges those that contributed to the panel. The scenery depicted in the panel is a painting of Underwood’s “favorite, inspirational place (Rilla Underwood).” The area is Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado. The letter describes Underwood as “a poet, singer, composer, lyricist, actor, writer..,” pursuing the arts from a young age. He started writing poetry at the age of sixteen with the encouragement of poet Anne Sexton. Underwood was accepted into The Julliard School on a scholarship and studied with actor John Houseman. Underwood died on 16 January 1993 in Montecito, California. The letter also requested that Underwood and Billy DeAcutis’s panels be included in the same block. It is unclear what the relationship between the two was. Keeping the Underwoods’s wishes, DeAcutis’s panel and Underwood’s panel are sewn directly next to each other.

Maroon Bells Colorado
Photo of Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado. Photo from Come to life Colorado.                                                                                                                   
Billy DeAcutis’s Panel











Reflection of the Panel and the Perceived Image of Underwood’s Life

Ray Underwood’s panel is designed in a way that creates a narrative that an audience can receive and interpret. The different images and phrases within the panel represent different aspects of Underwood’s life. The high level of artistic quality in the panel shows that Underwood valued the arts. In a letter that accompanies the panel, Underwood is labelled a “poet, singer, composer, actor, writer…(Underwood).” Several poems and lyrics written by Underwood are included in the lower portion of the panel. The content of these poems is romantic and inspiring. Underwood seemed to get his inspiration for his writings from nature. The majority of the panel is an image of a beautiful scene of nature. According to the letter, the scene is supposed to depict the Maroon Bells area near Aspen, Colorado, an area where Underwood spent many hours to find peace and inspiration. The letter requested that Underwood and DeAcutis’s panels be included in the same block (they are indeed sewn directly next to each other), however it is unclear what the relationship was between the two. DeAcutis’s panel is similar in design to Underwood’s, so it is likely that they were designed by the same person. One can infer that Underwood and DeAcutis were probably friends, possibly partners. It was common for homosexuals with AIDS to keep their sexual preferences hidden for fear of being discriminated against. However, this is only theoretical. There is no clear indication of the relationship between Underwood and DeAcutis. Overall, Ray Underwood lived a life dedicated to creating art and appreciating life’s beauties. This is made apparent through his panel of the Quilt and the letter that accompanies the panel.

This is a song composed by Maurice Jarre, with lyrics by Ray Underwood, written for the movie Almost an Angel (1990).

Underwood also played a character in a strange horror movie entitled Massacre at Central High (1976). This is the trailer for the movie.

Works Cited

Daalder, Rene, director. Massacre at Central High. Brian Distributing Corporation, USA, 1976, www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPxu_mXi-A8. Accessed 2 April 2018.

“Explore the Maroon Bells: What You Need to Know.” Come to Life Colorado, 11 Sept. 2017, www.colorado.com/articles/explore-maroon-bells-what-you-need-know. Accessed 1 April 2018.

Jarre, Maurice; Underwood, Ray. “Some Wings.” Performed by Vanessa Williams. Youtube. 15 January 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39Ru74VHVn4. Accessed 28 March 2018.

Lateef, Yasir. “The NAMES Project Foundation.” The Names Project, www.aidsquilt.org/about/the-names-project-foundation. Accessed 15 February 2018.

Underwood, Rilla. Letter to The NAMES Project.