Kurt Lowrie took a path at age 40 that fully deviated from the direction his life had followed. A major part of this change included a newfound spiritual awareness, which came from people outside his family and community. Kurt now honors the sacred he has learned and allows it to guide his better self. His personal transcendence reveals itself in artwork that honors the traditions and styles of a group he deeply respects, the Pacific Northwest Coastal Peoples.
Kurt was born of Western World heritage and grew up on the shores of Puget Sound across from Port Townsend on Marrowstone Island. Therefore, he is a non-Native American and is the only artist in Raven Makes Gallery who is not enrolled in any tribe as a member. At age 40, he began attending sweat lodges and, soon thereafter, became a Sun Dancer. He has attempted to be as true to the path of the Lakota Way as he has been taught and still continues to learn about. This remains his life direction, including Sun Dancing every summer for over 20 years. Kurt was later adopted into the Skokomish Tribe whose tribal lands are on the southern shores of Puget Sound.
The renowned art historian, artist, and teacher Bill Holm acquired the understanding, ability, and capacity to work and instruct in a Native American art form, something very few Westerners have ever accomplished. In this case, Bill grasped the overall guidelines and nuances of Pacific Northwest Coastal Art. Kurt first learned from one of Bill’s pupils, Loren White. Bill Holm himself eventually became a mentor to Kurt, as did the great Nuu-chah-nulth artist, Joe David.
Kurt shifted his artistic abilities to Northwest Coast art forms due to his respect for other Native American Peoples after going on the ‘Red Road,’ and also because of his childhood in the traditional lands of the Coastal Salish. Masks are his most frequent work, although he often assists on totem poles. When making masks, he does not attempt to be exactingly traditional with regard to any one People. Kurt’s direction on a mask (or bowls, plaques, panels) is a combination of what he feels drawn to making combined with what the wood tells him it will accept. A work might be completed within a few weeks, others can take months before the answers finally come. A consummate artist, he knows when to wait and not push the results.
These works are stately and gorgeous. They are not intended as Northwest Coast Peoples Artwork, but artwork in the Northwest Coastal Peoples style. In some ways, it is like the works of John James Audubon. When the quality of work becomes so exceptional, how much does it matter that Audubon was a Frenchman?
Kurt lives in Central Oregon between Bend and Sisters with his wife and son. He often returns to the Puget Sound area to visit family, work with his mentors, and soak up the cool, damp air among the big trees. Just on the other side of the wall, outside his carving studio at their Oregon home, stands a sweat lodge, teepee, and tiny pond where frogs croak throughout the summer.