Pursing the Dream: Charles Carey runs art gallery from his Auntie’s house
Bahamian Charles Carey grew up in Nassau and spent his early career as an accountant in New York City, but he always remembered fondly summers as a child spent visiting relatives on Harbour Island. When his aunt died and left a home here, he decided it was time to pursue his dream and return here to open an art gallery. And so, the Princess Street Gallery started in the living room of the cottage he lovingly restored. Today he has expanded it to the building next door.
In the beginning, much of the gallery’s work was produced by the many visiting artists who come here for the island’s visual charms and special qualities of light. But because many visitors to Harbour Island have both the taste and the means to purchase world-class art, Charles has been able to refine the quality of his collection to international standards.
“The few visiting artists I show now are those who have been coming to the Island for many years,” he says. Most the artists I show are selling their work in their home countries; it’s how they make their living. Professionals send me slides of their work from around the world. I rarely take on new artists unless someone shows me something amazing.”
This doesn’t mean, however, that his gallery has stopped featuring the sights of island life. “Most visitors to Harbour Island want something to remind them of their visit,” he says. But whether the subject is a swimming nude, a flower-draped cottage, or a scene of chickens in the street, the works show subtlety, depth, and variety for the visitor who takes the time to appreciate the collection. “Every artist brings his or her own vision and interpretation,” he explains. “A dozen artists might paint a particular cottage here and they will all be very different.” (Look for next month’s article “Big Art from a Small Place.”)
A wide range of work
The Princess Street Gallery also carries work from some of the most famous Bahamian artists including the internationally known, visionary “outsider artist” Amos Ferguson. Ferguson was working as a house painter in mid-life when he says he received a call from God to paint art instead of houses. A few of his large, vivid, icon-like works are displayed in the gallery’s front window.
Princess Street Gallery also offers the work of a few noted photographers
including Dwight Hiscano, who owns a house here, Edna Gray, and the Bahamian Klonaris. “I carry sculpture, oils, watercolors, acrylics, etchings, jewelry. I try to carry something for everyone, from someone who can appreciate and afford a $4,500 etching to someone who just wants to bring home a $10 print.”
When he’s not tending the gallery, Charles can often be seen man-about-townly tooling around in his blue Jeep Tracker with his dog Bandit. Charles is generally low-key and easy going but not above an occasional mordant comment on the social scene. Asked how he had adjusted to the limitations of small town life after living in Nassau and New York, Charles paused with a perplexed look. “What’s not to like?” he said. “Of course I visit friends in New York every fall, and I go to the States for major shopping. But I was in a huge shopping mall recently, and it disturbed me. When your heart is here, that style of life becomes repulsive.”
Still, people who think life in Harbour Island is sleepy are often in for a surprise, he says. “Part of my idea in coming here was to have time to paint. But running the gallery, keeping up with friends, and making sure Bandit gets her nightly run on the beach keeps me far too busy.”