The archeology of art: Uncovering the artist within

POSTED: 03/11/14 12:23 AM

St. Maarten / By Jason Lista – Most people know Jay Haviser as the island’s resident archeologist. But he is not defined by his profession. He does more. “My mother was an artist,” Jay Haviser said in his office in Madame’s Estate as he sat back in his chair, tracing the influence of art on his life. On the walls hang some of his paintings, some with a social message, others pure abstract patterns, all rich in color. “I paint out of pure spiritual energy.”

As a man who explores the past, he encounters art in all its forms when he removes the layers of time from buried objects, peering into the mindset of the culture that created them. “Art is from the beginning of humans,” Haviser pondered. For him, Art and humanity are inseparable. It’s an innate trait of humans. “It is the human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.”

“Some cultures have everyday objects painstakingly constructed and imbued with meaning,” Haviser said. Many Native American cultures, for example, don’t even have a word for the Western concept of “art.” For them, artistic expression is simply a part of everything they do and make. It is not something separate or outside of us, but comes from within. “It is the experience of the Mysterious, the experience of one’s self to relation to the universe,” Haviser described the process. He quoted Albert Einstein, who once said that, “trying to experience the mysterious is the source of all true art and science.”

Haviser does not simply paint. He works with different media. People on the island often tend to think of art in a limited form, as if it is a collection of paint on a wide canvas hung on some wall. “I don’t limit myself to one medium at all,” Haviser explained. “I try to live art.” He paints, but he also carves, creates mosaics out of broken colored ceramics, and writes. Writing, too, is an art form, whether poetry or prose. “Art explores the human condition, the essential of what it is to be human.”

Haviser once gave lecture and presentation on art a few years back, depicting the varied forms of art, from the personal to the utilitarian, like traffic signs, to the commercial, like the logo on a can of Coke. Artistic expression surrounds us, whether we realize it or not.

After the controversy of the old Tamarind tree that was cut down to make way for the Cole Bay roundabout, Haviser had a sample taken to determine the tree’s age. The core of the tree was rotten and hollow, though the tree began to grow inward on itself. Because the sample was heavy and too large, he had it split in half. One half for the testing and the other magically transformed it into a piece of art, filling it with recycled glass and shells and then sealing it with a clear resin.

The tree will never be forgotten now. It has taken on a new life, imbued with Haviser’s imagination – nature touched by the hand of man.

Art has been an essential part of St. Maarten-St. Martin heritage, from the beginning of the Human Experience here 4000 years ago. With contributions from all ethnic groups that have resided here, with the ability to express freely,” Haviser said. “Art is far from pointless. It is the very measure point of relevance for our lives.”






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