In a world whose motto might as well be "more is better," Patricia Carlisle Fine Art is swimming against the tide — and in the process has found its own little favorable current to ride. Instead of a long roster of artists, the gallery represents only a few. As a result, the work of each of the carefully selected contemporary painters, Jim Alford, Marc Civitarese, and Bonnie Bardos, receives strong visibility in its own section of the gallery. Sculpture by David Pearson is interspersed among the rooms and is spotlighted in the gallery's four inviting garden and patio areas.
What this means for visitors, collectors, and the gallery's artists is that each artist has what amounts to a continual exhibition, a body of work on view at all times. "It gives the collector a far superior selection of artwork — we become the artist's 'mother gallery.' But it also means that because we show only six artists, the caliber and quality of the art is absolutely top-of-the-line," Carlisle explains. "This benefits the artists because the gallery is totally dedicated to selling their work, so they can be 100 percent creative in the studio."
With four full-time and one part-time member in its sales staff, the gallery operates with a near one-to-one ratio between artists and staff. Consequently, Carlisle observes, each salesperson has unusually high level of knowledge and familiarity with every artist and his or her background, approach, and body of work.
Carlisle points to a similarly high degree of comprehensive experience and mastery of the field by sculptor David Pearson, who has been involved in bronze sculpture for more than 25 years. Beginning his training as a teen at Shidoni Foundry, Pearson became intimately familiar with every aspect of the process, from sculpting to casting, finish, and patina application. He also spent many years working closely with sculptors such as Kiki Smith and Terry Allen, renowned in the contemporary art world, and masters like Allan Houser, whose traditional roots run deep.
Even today, Pearson personally executes all the finishing work and patinas on each of his graceful figurative bronzes. Along with his commitment to very small editions — never larger than 15 — this allows the artist to ensure the highest possible quality for each piece, Carlisle notes. She adds, "Intuitively, he knows how each part of the process will play out, so that even during the sculpting process he can see what the end result will be."
Of the gallery's painters, Jim alford is well known for his ethereal cloud and sky paintings and mesmerizing "floating" geometric shapes.
The concept of invoking broad possibilities through a tightly focused theme reflects the gallery's innovative "less is more" approach to art presentation and sales. Carlisle, who came to the gallery business with a strong background in fine art, museum studies, and exhibit design, began developing this philosophy the years she directed other Santa Fe galleries. When she opened her doors in 1997, she knew the importance of focusing on quality — in the art itself, in the dealer/artist relationship, and in customer service.
A central component of customer service, she believes, is the care given to maintaining a warm, welcoming atmosphere, an ambience appealing to all the senses. Housed in a handsomely restored Canyon Road hacienda, with thick adobe walls, deep-set windows, and floors of flagstone and brick, the gallery offers the feeling of an inviting, well-cared-for home, within which one can experience fine art. Scented candles and fresh-cut flowers are placed out daily, and in winter the fireplaces flicker with warmth.
All visitors are offered fresh-made sun tea in summer and hot tea on cool days. And when the gardens are lush with blooms — all of which Carlisle herself plants and tends — the gallery owner/gardener invites the public to spend time in the gardens, enjoying Pearson's sculpture in a relaxing, verdant, and colorful outdoor setting. It is appropriate that Carlisle and her staff aim for a pleasing, home-like environment with the gallery; for, as she happily proclaims, "I'm going to be here for the next 30 years."
by Gussie Fauntleroy