One would not suspect a popular French singer to be holed up in an unassuming studio on 36th Street. Nor would one suspect that this renowned singer with twenty-five albums would also be an avid visual artist and a poet about to go on tour to further his musical career. Stepping into ReGallery, we met this multitalented man, CharlElie, who offered us a taste of his fascinating perspective on art, creativity, and New York City.
CharlElie settled in Manhattan with his wife and daughters in 2003, opening ReGallery a few years later. This is not a structured gallery, but might be better described as a space where CharlElie enjoys meeting curious passersby while continuing to work on his art. He finds it to be considerably less confining. CharlElie opened the Re with the purpose of escaping his isolating label as a singer back in France and to have a place where his art could be appreciated and removed from his celebrity status there. “I feel more respect from people who don’t know anything about me. I was frozen in a certain image that people had of me as a singer.”
CharlElie is someone who actively practices various forms of artistic expression, which he calls “multism,” meaning that it is the inspiration, and not the execution that is important. “To be an artist is an attitude, a way of being,” he told us. His long career as a painter, poet and musician commenced at a young age when his grandmother began to teach him to play the piano, his mom inspired his interest in literature, and his dad, an art history professor, instilled the love of all things visual.
When asked if he has a particular passion for one form of art over another, CharlElie was explicit in his belief that each of his talents is distinct. “What I do when I’m writing music or a poem is quite different than what I’m expressing as a painter.” He described it as being similar to a triathlete’s mindset of doing each activity fully and to the maximum extent, while keeping each one separate. “You give all you have wherever you are. When I’m on stage, I’m only a singer; when I’m a painter, I’m only a painter; when I’m a poet, I’m only a poet.” The multi-talented artist does not think that actively pursuing so many forms of creative expression limits his expertise. “Lots of people think that if they do one and only one thing they’ll do it well, and my response is you see better if you have two eyes.”
Art is a powerful, emotional, and personal experience for CharlElie. “Every gesture has a meaning when I do a painting…every kind of art is like frozen, petrified emotions. It’s good to see the inside coming outside. When I see my own painting, I see it as if someone else did it. I almost forget that’s me.” This perspective of himself as an artist falls under the classification of what he says some have called abstract narrative, or neo-constructivist. The “conjunction of reality and the inner mystery” holds great intrigue for him, and he went on in detail about varying subjective interpretations based on one physical, undeniable reality: “Any kind of presentation comes from yourself, and is the shaping of your inner mystery.”
New York City holds a special place in CharlElie’s “veins, heart, and soul,” as it serves as a constant stream of inspiration for him. He described the city as a human being, and as a stimulating environment where people come to reinvent themselves. “I always say that in France, you live well, but you feel bad. Here, you live bad, but you feel good...The pressure you feel in this city obliges you to go further.”
CharlElie said he sees the whole world through the door of his gallery on 36th Street. What an incredible opportunity for anyone who takes a step inside that door to experience the palpable passion he has for all the creative potential this world - this city—holds for him. As CharlElie so perfectly phrased it, both in regard to his heart and his art, "there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel."
Paul Booth is an extraordinary artist – he does not conventionally display his art in galleries or exhibits. Rather, he has created this event space, gallery, tattoo parlor and architectural triumph. Growing up in New Jersey, Paul taught himself skills in fine arts and sculpting before opening his first tattoo parlor there in 1995. He moved his space into Manhattan and in 2014 settled into his third location on 38th Street. On the ground floor, an eerie yet pensive song hums in the background as visitors can view the exquisite paintings embellishing the walls. Down the winding staircase lined with Paul’s gargoyle-like sculptures resides the tattoo parlor. Red fluorescent bulbs cast a shadow on Paul’s larger pieces – sculptures of hooded figures and skeletons, including a wall of sculpted skulls and bones that Paul has transferred to each of his locations. Chairs face the faux-medieval cathedral wall, where customers from New York to Australia come to get their tattoos by one of Paul’s talented artists. The top floor is used as an event space, with coffins for resting and pieces by Andy Warhol and H. R. Giger for admiring. In the past, Last Rites has held painting sessions – where multiple artists impose their individual style on one canvas – after which the gallery sent all donations to the International Child Art Foundation. They aspire to host a similar event in the future.
After having eaten at Barbes, I was eager to check out Omar Balouma's other restaurant. Stopping to notice the beautiful, ornately carved front door, we learned that it was shipped directly from Morocco, and functions as a literal and figurative portal to North Africa. Inside, a vague smell of hookah smoke hangs in the air amidst beautifully crafted walls done in a soft pastel-hued Venetian plaster. The front of the restaurant is for dining where the menu offers smaller Mediterranean-style plates flavored with Moroccan spices. The back hookah room might be the real star. Benches line the large square room, along with colorful seat cushions while tapestry-esque sheets hang overhead. Saturday nights come alive with belly dancers and music is played by Rachid Halibal, a native of Morocco.
Neon lights, on the back wall, greeted us as we entered Trademark Grind, the “boutique coffee bar” serving Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters from Brooklyn. In this quaint space, we were treated to excellent cups of hot chocolate, perfect on this winter day. A few minutes later, the PR manager, Matt, greeted us and invited the Manhattan Sideways team to follow him through a small entryway where we discovered Trademark Taste, a cozy, dimly lit restaurant... a safe little hideaway in the middle of bustling Midtown Manhattan. Opened in the spring of 2016, by In Good Company Hospitality, Trademark Taste & Grind serves a mixed clientele, from guests at the attached hotel and the pre-show crowd from Madison Square Garden to those looking for a unique weekend bar scene. The menu is impeccably curated by culinary director, Jeff Haskell, to featured favorites like Burrata and Knots and Tuna Poke. However, with its dark, mellow colors, graffiti motifs and hints of industrial flair, Trademark is all about the space. The walls are white and black with accents of red. Intimate hidden booths circle a large center bar, the anchor of the room. As soon as I took a look around, I wanted to settle into one of these booths for the evening. When I repeated this to Matt, he replied, “People tend to not want to leave. ”
Built originally in the mid-1800s, Sniffen Court encompasses a small alleyway running between two quaint rows of brick buildings. With vegetation lending further tranquility to the scene, a wrought-iron gate protects it from the public. The buildings, which were once stables, have now been repurposed into commercial, residential and artistic spaces. Next door, the historic and private Amateur Comedy Club hosts shows performed by, and for, members. Sniffen Court now appears on the National Register of Historic Places.