Steve Harris gets his art inspiration from dreams and current events, with almost all of his drawings and sculpture telling a story. Those stories... Local artist’s wares on display at Petersburg art gallery

Steve Harris gets his art inspiration from dreams and current events, with almost all of his drawings and sculpture telling a story.

Those stories will be on display at his show “19 Sculptures and Nine Drawings” at the Petersburg Area Art League Gallery this month.

“Each piece I do tells a story, sometimes more than one story,” Harris said.

One sculpture that was part of a healing process for him – “911” – took 600 hours to carve from a solid block of plaster. The piece – which was painted with tempera – reflects the people and firemen during that day of death and destruction with God’s hand encircling the 2,974 victims who were killed in the initial attack in New York.

“I was very affected by that day,” he said. “I needed something to reenergize myself. After I completed it, I was healed.”

His favorite art project – “The Gates of Heaven” – tells the tragedies of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Hurricane Sandy, and his nephew, who was killed while at school and is represented as an angel in the piece.

“I like to take a few events and bring them all together,” Harris said.
He just completed a 50-inch sculpture – “Alex and Apollo’s Treehouse” – which was inspired by the puppet play and his grandsons.

One of nine children, Harris, 66, grew up in Williamsburg. His art inspiration came from his father, who would march him and his brother outside many days to draw a barn that sat across the road from their house.

“I can remember when I was 8 or 9 years old and my Daddy would get up at 2 in the morning for work, and I would still be up drawing,” Harris said.

He enjoys drawing and sculpture, but prefers sculpture. Most of his drawings are done with pencil and ink.

The portrait of his son Alex at age 3 – “My First Abstract Painting” – will be part of the exhibit.

Harris taught art for 35 years at Salem Middle School and two years at Virginia State University. He has been married to Michelle for 37 years. The couple has been together 43 years.

PAAL President Cynthia Richardson said this is Harris’ first exhibit at the gallery.

“I was totally blown away [with his work],” she said. “Very detailed and each piece tells a story.”

The art league will host a reception for Harris from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, April 12.

PAAL will be open this month on Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. The gallery at 7 E. Old St. in old town Petersburg.