Born in Bari, Italy, Ray came to the U.S. at age two in 1935. He was raised in New York's Lower East Side and joined the Air Force at age 17 during the Korean War. He attended the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, majoring in illustration. He later got a job in Pittsburgh as an industrial illustrator and then in California for Lockheed and Disney Productions (working on the classic "Mary Poppins").
Inspired by a Fechin exhibit, he quit illustration and moved to Taos in 1969. Ray's first home/studio in Taos was the historic Martinez Hacienda on Lower Ranchitos Road. A gallery managed by Tommy Lewis carried his work, and he helped form the Taos Six with Walt Gonske, Ron Barsano, Julian Robles, Robert Daughters and Rod Goebel. This group helped to revitalize the Taos market and bring it to an entirely new generation of art collectors.
Vinella is one of the grand old masters of Taos, having instructed a large portion of the younger painters in the Taos area. Ray continues to paint and mentor younger painters in the area of oil painting.