Lawrence Pitre’s exhibit of narrative paintings, “We Are One,” opened Sept. 6 and will be on display at Gallery 4Culture. It honors the legacy and diversity of Seattle’s Central District from 1840 to the present day. Eschewing traditional perspective in favor of a flattened and abstracted treatment, Pitre depicts the Central District’s history of African American, Chinese, Jewish, and Filipino communities with vibrancy and intensity. The alarming rate of urban development and its impact on these longstanding communities, especially the African American community, is at the core of the work. “We Are One” is a statement about racial injustice as much as it is historic interpretation.
The collection highlights prominent figures and iconic places, including former Seattle city councilman Wing Luke; Sister Gregory, Pitre’s aunt who became a nun at the age of 16; the residents and shacks of Hooverville; and the Gang of Four, a group of four men from different cultural backgrounds who formed a powerful political alliance to combat inequity. He paints the faces of all of these figures in a Cubist style, showing several different outlooks and emotions simultaneously.
“Recognizing the continued struggle and lack of representation of communities of color in the arts has led me here, to help reveal our stories and experiences. The idea behind this series is to express how important diversity really is in a community,” Pitre says. “The inclusiveness behind the work is meant to show that we need each other again. We have to come back together and start standing up for our community as a whole.”
Lawrence Pitre was born in Seattle’s Central District. Much like other children growing up, he searched for an identity—and visual art became that mystical vehicle. After receiving his AA degree, Lawrence transferred to the University of Washington’s School of Art, where he began to cultivate his artistic vision under the direction of Jacob Lawrence. Upon completion of his BFA, followed by years spent in a government career, he decided to again follow his artistic passion and enrolled in the Masters of Fine Arts Leadership Program at Seattle University. He graduated in 2017. Pitre sees his artistic endeavors as a way to depict his own struggles, joys, and love for life. He seeks to understand the process of creativity in the way a theoretical physicist seeks to understand the universe.