Craig Carlisle . . .

Going back to New York City


In the late summer of the 1998, I attended an art opening for artist Brian Novatny, a contemporary of mine and also former CCAD graduate. Brian was showing his latest paintings at the George Billis Gallery in New York City.

On the 9th floor of an old warehouse in Chelsea resides George's Gallery a post he has held for over five years, and now one of the oldest galleries in the Chelsea Arts District. I approached the room that evening with some resistance not knowing how I would connect with the NYC art scene. The room was packed and the sales were brisk.


That evening, I was witnessing something I wanted, a gallery opening in NYC. Moving through the room, I began to feel the tension . My mind quickly went to the negative and I found myself feeling like a simple artist with nothing to offer. Vision of my future living in NYC was becoming more and more crippled each moment, I began to fear the worst. My fear became my reality and I exited the gallery without saying good-bye to Brian or George. I left with the thought that my NYC experience was now over.

Two blocks from the gallery was my storage locker where I kept a majority of my possessions. I walked directly to the building and entered my locker.

In front of me were boxes stacked to the ceiling. I tore open the first box in front of me and inside were photographs of a love that I had just lost. The expression on her face was a smile, which reminded me of how we both arrived in NYC. Honesty and following our dreams was used as fuel to get to the Big Apple.

I broke down and cried.

Two weeks later my bags were packed and I was on an airplane to my new home, San Francisco. I had to swallow my dream of being a NYC artist, and use my honesty to take me out of a city no longer working for me.

Two years after my NYC departure, George Billis made an appearance in San Francisco. We met for lunch and had a wonderful reconnection. A week later he called asking if I could get together enough work to have a show at his gallery in four months. Without even thinking of the work I had in front of me, I said yes.

Four months later in January of 2001, I was sitting on an airplane writing in my journal about how I was about to go back to NYC.

On January 11th at 7pm I was in the George Billis Gallery in Chelsea, the room was full of people. There were friends from both NYC and Columbus Ohio including Brian Novatny. Best of all, several family members were in attendance. My paintings were selling briskly and my spirit peaked.

When an artist has a reception for his or her work, it is an opportunity to experience love. For me, when I show my work I am able to give others a part of my intimate and honest self. The people in the room of a reception are there because they love art, or they may have a connection to the artist. It is an opportunity for them to express love in many ways. Whether by attendance or direct communication they are there and they exemplify love in action.

For a year and a half I lived in New York City, selling my work as an independent. I worked countless hours trying to do it on my own and feeling the pressure of survival. Today having George Billis Gallery as my new agent I am able to remove the long worn hat of businessman. Maybe someday I will wear it again, but for now I am happy to let someone else take on the business side of my art. Having representation allows for more creative freedom and the ability to just paint and draw.

Painting is a commitment to self-integrity. I do it alone and I do it for myself. The results of channeling my spiritual self onto a canvas reveals to the viewer a true image.

I believe there is a great responsibility to being an artist. Artists are brought forth in this world to express and teach. The message one communicates can have a serious impact as often seen in movies and music. There is more of an impact in fine art. A painting one creates has the opportunity to be handed down through generations and makes a statement not only about the artist, but also about the person who is care taking of the work. One may simply toss aside an old CD or video they no longer want, but one rarely does such to a one of a kind painting. There is a voice in the dried paint on a canvas. The marks represent hours of labor and soul searching.

Whether one chooses to sell their work or give it away, it does not matter. Creating is the journey and I feel myself a complete individual when I paint.

Painting helps me discover myself and I am constantly searching for new direction. I find in the depths of my soul an outlet for expression.

To have been given a chance to show my work recently in NYC was an honor that I will always treasure. It allowed me a chance to make amends to myself for a time that I was less than kind to my soul and assumed the worst.

Exiting the building that night after the reception I had a flashback of two years before. I recalled leaving the exact same building assuming the posture of a failure.

The difference that evening was that I was with my family and experiencing love.