“Faces of Sitka” is in intimate collection of full-scale portraits by local artist Steve Lawrie of the places and people he loves. Featured here are portraits of Pat Welsh and Sarah Lawrie, the artist’s daughter. Steve Lawrie will debut an even larger exhibit in Fall 2019. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Local artist Steve Lawrie is creating a series of large-scale portraits of Sitkans on tapestry. His exhibition, “Faces and Places of Sitka,” displays a selection of that work, an introduction to a larger exhibit in the fall of 2019.

It is open to the public at 322 Lincoln Street (Allen Marine Tours lounge) during the Fall Art Walk, November 23rd from 5-9pm, and November 24th and 25th from 12-6pm.

Lawrie came to Sitka from New Zealand in 1973. He recently sold his fishing boat to focus entirely on his artwork. He is primarily self-taught. Lawrie told KCAW’s Katherine Rose he feels liberated for the chance to work on a bigger canvas made of fabric. “They give me room to breathe. They’re emotional. And I think that they’re engaging. The people are engaging,” Lawrie said.

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Lawrie says he wants his subjects to be made visible, especially those who tend to fly under the radar. “So I was talking to one of the gentlemen that is featured in this show. He’s an older man. He’s vital. He’s part of this community and has been for a long time. Since 1960. He described to me – and I’m aware of this – how he’s disappearing. As you get older, you’re not seen. My paintings – I’m seeing them in my paintings. I want to see these people. They get left behind.”

Lawrie paints on tapestry, so they’re easy to transport. He plans to bring a dozen of these works in New Zealand and bring short biographies of those profiled. He says, “It’s a chance for the Kiwis to see we’re all the same” and bring a human face to those in the United States.

“I get really defensive for us sometimes because [Americans] take a hammering overseas, for right or wrong. These paintings are a little attempt to calm the waters for what I can do,” Lawrie said.

A portrait of KathyHope Erickson by Steve Lawrie. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)