Painter, sculptor, poet and musician are a few titles describing D.J. Haslett. He is an assistant curator for the art displayed at the Hamilton Township Library. Inside the library, you will find eight of Haslett’s paintings. Outside, his sculpture, “Power of the Three Graces,” is near the front entrance. Haslett worked at the Grounds for Sculpture Park for 13 years after retiring from the corporate world. He wanted to work somewhere he could be creative. He has energy for art, life and music. He is creative indeed.
Your art has a large musical influence. Why?
I began playing guitar at age 10. Then I played bass guitar in a rock band called The Apostles when I was a teenager in the ’60s. We cut a record and we still perform today. I began a painting series entitled “Gathering Guitars” in 2003 and have done 53 versions of this idea since then, with more to come.
How did you begin with the musical sculptures?
I come from a family of men who worked with their hands, tradespeople. The rusted, metal found-object guitar sculptures, and frames I make from construction materials, combine my love of music, and homage to these hard-working Polish and Czechoslovakian immigrants.
Who were you influenced by?
Before I began studying art, I worked intuitively and just made art. When I started reading books and studying, I came upon Robert Rauschenberg, who did a lot of work with found objects that he called “Combines.”
What is your process?
I have a large garage which has been converted into a studio. I lay things out, like pieces of metal I have found and wait for the Muse to tap me on the shoulder. For painting, I do keep a sketchbook, and sometimes take the small sketch, project it, to make a larger image on a canvas. Many ideas come to me in the middle of the night, they wake me up, and I write them down.
How long do you feel it took you to find your own artistic voice?
The Gathering Guitars series, my main body of work, started about four years after I began my art career. But my voice continues to grow and experiment.
What media do you use and why?
I work with painting, found objects, and photography. I also am a published poet and find this is very helpful in creating titles for my works, many with double meanings like “Bee in the Moment.”
Do you acquire your art supplies locally?
I find many pieces of metal from cars, old furniture and hardware in the trash. People also give me stuff. I get my paints from local art stores and sometimes find frames and abandoned canvases on the curb I can reuse.
What fight/struggle do you have regarding your art?
I will never get to creating all the art I have ideas for. That’s a good thing. I find it hard to concentrate on just one project. I usually have about three or more things cooking. I guess focus can be a problem.
Do you have a lot of artist friends in the area?
Yes, I worked at Grounds for Sculpture for 13 years and also served as a docent. I had a number of artists who had studios at GFS teach and encourage me. We are still in contact today, great people.
What one attribute should all artists have?
Imagination. I call it the Big Three or ICC. Imagination, how can I show this my way? Then there is Curiosity, about everything and Courage, to put your work out there. Imagination is Number No. 1.
Do you have musicians as collectors?
Yes, many of my paintings from the Gathering Guitar series are in private collections of musicians. Collectors have acquired paintings for their children learning guitar or older parents going back to playing guitar.
What is your dream project?
Great question! I have some small sculptures that I would love to make into large sculptures for public spaces.
For more information, go online to djhaslett.com.