Steve Lawrence returns to art with exhibit on display at University Heights collective
By Marie Khris Pecjo | SDUN Reporter
After focusing on nonprofit work for 40 years, philanthropic artist Steve Lawrence is ready to reemerge in the local art scene with an exhibit at the Park Blvd Artworks building.
“Painting is a way to master those feelings and the manifestation of what words cannot express,” Lawrence said, adding that inspiration comes from the creativity itself. “It is not an intellectual concept, but rather an experience that unfolds through improvisation between what is happening internally and what manifests in the painting.”
Art for Lawrence started when he lived under the starlit skies of New York City. He said he was mesmerized by their sight and wanted to translate the beauty he saw onto paper.
“Then I realized that their radiance came from the fact that the light was fluid, always changing. I could not capture that in a static image,” Lawrence said. “I was drawn to painting because it came closest to my experience of light. I found that abstract painting could best express my experience rather than representational images.”
From there, Lawrence developed a palate for painting, specifically with acrylics. He said he believes art provides not only a way for an artist to examine and record life, but is also a way in which others may examine or reflect upon themselves.
Lawrence identified with being an artist ever since his high school teacher, Patricia Dorbin, encouraged him to pursue a life of art. He applied to art schools and was accepted into Carnegie Mellon University. It was there where he met one of his most influential art mentors, Elaine de Kooning, wife to famed abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning.
Elaine De Kooning’s guidance served as Lawrence’s catalyst to continue his art as a life-long profession. After he graduated in 1971, Lawrence packed his bags, joining his friends in San Francisco in pursuit of breaking into the art world.
After the move, Lawrence helped start the artist cooperative Project Artaud, which became one of San Francisco’s first artist communities. Still in existence, Project Artaud now houses more than 80 artists.
Project Artaud served as an outlet for two of Lawrence’s passions: art and helping those in need. Lawrence’s year with Project Artaud kicked off the rest of his career in non-profit work.
Lawrence remained on the philanthropic path and worked for a variety of nonprofits, most notably as the executive director at the Ronald McDonald House of San Francisco for 13 years. After his time with the organization, Lawrence was inspired to continue his humanitarian work on the board of directors of Oakes Children’s Center in San Francisco as vice president and chair of strategic planning.
“I got involved with them because I spent over 13 years working [at Ronald McDonald House] with learning disabled and emotionally disturbed children and their families,” Lawrence said. “I wanted to continue to help this special population and Oakes gave me that opportunity.”
Following his retirement in 2010, Lawrence moved to San Diego to be close with his family, including his two granddaughters. Later that year, Lawrence was a part of Kate Ashton’s San Diego Art Department Open Studio, where he rekindled his love with painting indefinitely.
Lawrence’s approach to painting liberates himself from restriction, he said, calling every accident a new opportunity. He said his intention is to create art and to incorporate these accidents, and he has no preconception before starting a painting.
Friends of Lawrence said the artist operates artistically similar to musicians, improvising as they go along.
Since returning his primary focus back to art, Lawrence has made a space for himself at Park Blvd Artworks in University Heights, a 20,000-square-foot building for artists, designers and crafts people. His current exhibit, “Re-Emergence,” is on display and features acrylic, oil and watercolor paintings.
“If my work serves to stimulate the observer through their introspection, then I have achieved my goal. Even if someone doesn’t like what she or he sees, they may come to understand that their reaction is a reflection of themselves,” Lawrence said.
He also said he believes art is complete when it is shared and, wants art observers to have an experience from viewing his work.
“You paint because you feel good about it, regardless of what others may think or feel about your work,” he said. “Art is life, and by art, I mean the painting, the people and the hope for peace.”
Lawrence’s “Re-Emergence” exhibit is on display at 4411 Park Blvd. at the Borrelli Space Gallery in the Artworks building, now through the end of September. For more information visit shlawrence.net or call 619-692-0734.