Artist Profile: David Haslett, Orcas Island

  • Tue Jun 17th, 2008 4:42pm
  • News

I first saw the work of David Haslett at Westcott Bay Sculpture Park, where his remarkable piece “Arc of Intentional Influence,” is carved with sinuous glyphs and installed in the Park’s 20-acre waterfront setting.

“Westcott Bay Sculpture Park is a true gem, it’s heads above and has become a known destination in the art community.”

Haslett shares his time between two home/studios, one in West Linn, Ore. where he and his painter partner Jan Rimerman have the gallery Neptune Studios, and one in Warm Valley on Orcas, in the house on the land that his great uncle purchased in the 1930s. “As children, what we lived for was coming up here.” Haslett says he “was an artist from day one. My grandfather was editor of the Tacoma newspaper and would bring me large envelopes of paper. I lived to fill every sheet with a drawing or invention, and that’s how it never stopped.”

Haslett’s broad artistic background includes studies at Portland State University, where his instructors included James Lee Hansen and Keith Jellum, who taught him to pour the bronze he worked with for several years, and painter Mel Katz, who encouraged him to work in large dimensions. Sculptor Don Wilson introduced him to stone.

The Haslett Orcas homestead setting is bucolic, with fields and a pond and the original family farmhouse, moved further back on the property when the Orcas Road was widened about 25 years ago. Driving past the pond, and across the field, large chunks of stone, sturdy tables and sculptures in process become visible near the studio, and Haslett comes out to greet me and offer a tour.

His spray bottle comes out, its mist revealing the unique beauty of each stone waiting to be carved. “This is Aphrodite marble left over from a 3,500-pound commission. Aphrodite marble is found on a remote uninhabited island in S.E. Alaska. It’s 420 million years old, look at the huge clam and snail fossils! And this is a 500-pound piece of blue marble, very rare, and brucite out of B.C. and green tremolite, a rare and exotic stone. Local Cascade granite and Moses Lake basalt are stones of choice. Bought a ton of marble from Japan the other day.” Haslett is busy at work on pieces destined for exhibition or commission, and says “it’s a matter of seeing what you really have before you and diving in. As the layers of stone fall away, patterns begin to reveal themselves, then the proportion of forms, combined with the color in the stone suggests a direction. These inevitable changes alter any preconceptions. The stone reveals a sense of its geometry and that’s when carving just happens.”

The individual sculptural works are stunning. They embody great physical, mental, emotional and spiritual qualities, integrated by the artist’s vision and skill and the stone’s own inherent properties. Each is a singularly beautiful original. “An exhilarating moment for me is placing the finished sculpture in a public setting or private garden so others can experience their own interpretations.”

The recent Solstice Stone Series is rooted in an ancient concept. Two vertical standing stones both with slices are placed in alignment. The taller stone eclipses the shorter stone in its shadow and the band of light passes through the slice on a chosen day and time. Haslett describes them as “simple, connected and fully charged.” Observing nature and learning to understand ancient symbols are inspirational endeavors for this dynamic sculptor. His granite benches and water features integrate stone with other natural elements, such as bamboo in a fountain or a large copper bowl in a fire bench.

“For me art represents the spirit that overcomes. The creative process is a powerful force about learning and seeing. Art teaches us how to use our eyes to really see, but it is not our eyes that are seeing. It is the brain’s ability to comprehend at another level, and once recorded, the passion for the purpose of creating is awakened. Art is the foundation of humanity.”

Haslett’s work can be seen throughout the Northwest in galleries in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and the renowned Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum, Idaho. On San Juan Island, his work is available at Bison Gallery in Friday Harbor or at Westcott Bay Sculpture Park. On Orcas, people will recognize the sculptures at T. Williams Realty, various cemeteries and in numerous private collections. Interested members of the islands’ communities are welcome to make appointments with Dave Haslett at 376-6957 or email dhaslett@orcasonline.com.