All too often, innovative and affecting art originates from tragedy. How can an artist channel life’s biggest questions and its most profound heartbreaks unless they’ve asked these questions and felt these heartbreaks themselves?
The works featured in “Letters to a Friend,” two month-long exhibitions of fifteen paintings each by Craig Carlisle now on view at Julia Martin Gallery, do just that, distilling great pain into a soothing, harmonious collection of natural scenes and abstracted figures.
“‘Letters to a Friend’ is a series of paintings created by Craig Carlisle in response to the sudden loss of his best friend of 25 years,” according to the gallery.
In Vulnerable, for instance, Carlisle presents a doe standing in winter’s elements. Despite the brightly-rendered water around its legs, the pastel background and its wide-eyed demeanor, the animal appears innocently susceptible to sudden danger.
The other works in “Letters to a Friend” share elements with Vulnerable — in palette, serenity and, critically, a shared sense that there is more to be considered underneath.
“The idea of meditation and contemplation play a major role in the paintings of artist Craig Carlisle,” his website reads. “His paintings articulate indelible images which evoke an emotional response from the viewer… Each expression Carlisle creates in his paintings are meant to pull from one’s subconscious.”
Much of Carlisle’s work, in this exhibition and preceding it, depicts large-scale, anonymous, genderless heads meant to be free of any specific representation and to illicit emotions and responses that viewers can relate to universally.
Carlisle is from Oklahoma City and received his fine arts degree from the Columbus College of Art & Design. His work has been presented throughout Tennessee, as well as in New York City, Los Angeles and elsewhere. His studio is located outside of Nashville.
Julia Martin Gallery is located at 444 Humphreys Street in WeHo.