The Long Story…

me-and-dino-mural-for-webBorn in Billings, Montana, raised there and in Arizona, Stevens is a product of America’s west. It is in the wide open with a full view of the horizon, and under a nighttime spray of stars that she is at home. However, her quest for adventure – and a career in art, led her to Los Angeles many years ago.

There, she soon was working in the entertainment industry as a scenic artist and muralist – one of the first women to work in that end of the business. The job required painting sometimes huge backdrops and other art pieces for television, theater, theme park and movie productions. Laurie also did matte paintings for several children’s animated movies, traveled with the Ice Follies, worked in Las Vegas and Reno on shows for the Reno MGM Grand; and on location around the country with different movie and theme park companies. She worked for Disney Imagineering doing murals and attraction backdrops for the Disney Parks worldwide. Laurie also ran the production of some of those large scenic installations and went on to do some set design and illustration for several theme park design groups.

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Fruit backdrop for the Universal Studios movie The Incredible Shrinking Woman. See bicycle in foreground for scale.

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Humorous History Mural 12′ x 36′ for Knotts Berry Farm, Buena Park, California

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The Great Savannah Exposition 16′ x 28′ for the Savannah Cultural Center, Savannah, Georgia

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The Land Pavillion Murals for Disney’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida

Stevens loved working in the business, but LA never felt like home. Two years before she left California, she bought a house in Soledad Canyon north of the city – sharing a canyon hilltop with Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife (animal actors). Tippy Hedron’s Shambala Reserve occupied the river canyon below. While she was there, Laurie reveled in life surrounded by wild animals and her own experiences with the animals and trainers. Waking up in the morning was not by alarm clock, but instead by the stirring of wild animals awakening at first light – the cougars huffing, the lions roaring and the wolves howling. Laurie has many unusual stories to tell of that time! While living there, she began to realize (or was it remember?) that home for her meant a more primal place than Los Angeles, CA.

One snowy January in the early ’80’s while attending a painting workshop at The Diamond Bar X Dude Ranch near Augusta, MT., Laurie and soon to be husband Tom fell in love with the area and on the spot, bought a beautiful property there on the rushing Dearborn River. The subsequent move to that majestic, wild mountain place, just an hour’s horseback ride from the Scapegoat Wilderness, was something they never regretted.

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Steamboat Mountain, the view from home on the Dearborn river out of Augusta, Montana

For a few years, Laurie continued to do mural and museum installations nationally, but it became too difficult to do that from the wilds of Montana. Her attention gradually turned to other things; the raising of her two girls; the creation of Latigo & Lace – a gallery of fine art and Montana handcrafts, started by Laurie and five other women in Augusta, MT.; the overseeing of many building and remodeling projects, the necessary running of the ranch. Painting was always on her mind though, and as the girls grew older, she got out her brushes again. This time her focus was to paint the life and people of the western plains.

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Latigo & Lace in Augusta, Montana

Stevens now especially enjoys painting the ever changing landscape and the interaction between animals or people and their environment. Immersed in the culture of the still old west, Laurie finds herself especially attracted to the timeless stories of people living on the land and dealing with Mother Nature on a daily basis.

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Set design for The Tremendious Journey – the Lewis & Clark Ballet, for the Missouri River Dance Company, Great Falls, Montana

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Set Design for the Opera Poia for the Great Falls Symphony, Great Falls, Montana

Laurie’s home for 27 years was the Y Worry Ranch near Cascade, MT. Story has it that famed artist Charlie Russell visited the ranch regularly as he too lived for a time in Cascade. Tales of the early settlers are numerous, and are yet visible in the nearby tipi rings, stone cairns and old wagon tracks that cross this high, prairie landscape.

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trees n wagonThe ranch environment called Laurie’s attention to the circle of life, and our place within the circle. It is from this wellspring that she found both personal and artistic inspiration.

Stevens has moved on now to the next chapter of life, which is a solo adventure! With that comes the opportunity to try new things, explore new places – and maybe experiment with new painting styles. Why not?!  She knows that she will not ultimately venture far from the areas of Montana that she calls home – the places where her heart is.

Stevens is a Signature member of American Women Artists, a founding member of Montana Painters Alliance, and a member of other national artist’s groups. Her work can be found in both regional and national shows and galleries, and in the collections of the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA., the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, MT., Phillips Academy in Andover, MA., the USAF, and Marty Skylar – past President of Walt Disney Imagineering, among others.