Carlo D’Alessio is dining at Nepheles Restaurant in South Shore one evening when his waiter comments, “You know you look like John Gotti?” The easygoing D’Alessio laughs heartily. For the rest of the evening, the waiter jokingly refers to him as “John.” As D’Alessio prepares to leave, the waiter says to him, “So I hear you are a local artist and you have your own studio here in town?” “Oh yes,” D’Alessio winks at him, “that witness protection program is just fabulous!”
D’Alessio is a native New Yorker, and he is Italian to the bone. But his path diverged from that of his Mafioso look-alike early on; beginning at age 12, D’Alessio’s life has revolved around paint brushes and canvases.
D’Alessio has lived all over the country working as a commissioned artist. His painting talent has been sought out by everyone from the president of IBM to the most affluent restaurant owners in Aspen, Colorado. His signature technique is similar to that of artist Maxfield Parrish. D’Alessio layers acrylic paint with varnish, layer upon layer, until it creates an almost three-dimensional effect. As a result, an original D’Alessio will mimic a change in light, its layers creating a mood as well as a picture.
“What makes me passionate about Carlo’s paintings is that they take you away,” says Tonya Tinkham Pishos, D’Alessio’s art promoter. “There is a lot of subliminal meaning in his work. It is very spiritual. The people who notice it are intrigued by it and have to have it in their homes or businesses.”
D’Alessio’s cloud-dotted skies are often the dominant visual player of his landscapes, his layering technique unveiling a heavenly light filtered through mist. “All of his skies have been inspired by the light of Lake Tahoe,” says Pishos.
D’Alessio’s talent was recognized early on. He was accepted to the School of Music and Art in New York City at age 12 – the same school that gained notoriety when the book "Fame" and then the movie were modeled after it. It was here that D’Alessio received what he believes is the best artistic training in the world. He then went on to attend Fordham University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. “My parents wanted me to have something to fall back on,” he laughs.
Combining his art and psychology degrees, D’Alessio established a successful career as an advertising artist right out of college, working for such big name companies as Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale’s. But the worth of his personal art work also began to be recognized by a number of private collectors. D’Alessio soon began a life of movement between various western locations, his work occasionally shown in studios but more often painted on commission. D’Alessio describes his move to Lake Tahoe as the culmination of his journey. “I feel at home here, I feel inspired,” says D’Alessio. His Tahoe Keys home in South Lake Tahoe also serves as his gallery. It sits on the edge of the lagoon with views of both Mt. Tallac and The Lake.
Mt. Tallac and the nearby Emerald Bay Teahouse figure in D’Alessio’s recent paintings. He describes his latest work-in-progress enthusiastically. “I’m giving the teahouse a real different angle with a night sky and a moon, and then silver clouds behind it. Everybody will know it’s the teahouse, but it is a different way of looking at it. You don’t have to be literal with everything.”
In an effort to promote the arts in the Tahoe Basin, D’Alessio volunteers one to two weeks during the summer at the Tahoe Tallac Association. “I think the people here are very hungry for culture. The arts should be celebrated.” D’Alessio is also a member of the Artists Studio Program, through which he opens his home and gallery to the general public.
In the evening, coyotes howl loudly from outside the D’Alessio household. The moon lights up the living room with its tranquil light. D’Alessio observes it all and with his characteristic humor says, “When people ask me why I moved to Lake Tahoe, I tell them, ‘Because it reminds me of the Bronx.’”