Mosera – At the crossroads of politics and artPOSTED: 09/27/13 3:08 PM
St. Maarten / By Jason Lista – A shaggy black dog streaked with silver came to the gate, curious to see who was visiting deep in the heart of French Quarter late yesterday morning. A tall dreadlocked figure emerged from the house and yelled out. The dog hustled back, half wanting to see the visitor and half wanting to obey. Mosera the artist stood in the sunlight with a warm smile and a polite greeting.
With the introductions completed, he walked through his lush garden up toward the porch. Plants were everywhere, both inside and out, neatly kept in pots. While the sun climbed high and hot, the house was open and cool, as inviting as its host. It would turn out to be a few hours of lively discussion, at turns about politics and at turns about culture and the crossroads between the two, but always generously interrupted with long bouts of cheerful laughter.
“The Caribbean is a complicated place,” he mused, as he sauntered past shelves stacked with books. “St. Lucia is more French than St. Martin, yet it was held by the British for so long,” he continued, thinking of the irony of French Creole spoken on a former British island and the French names that still permeate much of St. Lucia, much like the English that persists on St. Maarten. “It’s complicated. I wouldn’t like to be a sociologist in the Caribbean. You’d go mad.”
He continued on toward his studio where he paints, a mostly open and amply lit space with abundant natural light. It is the quintessential artist’s studio, stacked with some of his most recent work and with interesting artifacts tucked away here and there, a laboratory for ideas. A shock of color and clean, vivid images immediately hits the eyes when you enter Mosera’s studio. “What makes an artist different from others is the emotion he exudes.” And it’s not always about technique. “If it doesn’t have emotion, forget about it. Some artists get it, some don’t.”
“The human subject is very interesting,” he said. And most of Mosera’s subjects are women. He occasionally paints live models, too, some in the nude. “They are fascinating and intriguing,” he remarked of the human female, trailing off to an almost indistinct murmur as he tried to recall with futility the illusive charm that women can hold over men. “They are so important, so troublesome,” he chuckled.
He sat down and relaxed in his living room. Everywhere there is space possible for a shelf in his home it is packed with books that help feed his voracious curiosity. “I question everything. Curiosity is intelligence,” he reflected. “You should question everything, religion, society… What is our place in the world?”
That curious, boundary pushing personality is reflected in his paintings. He is not shy to venture into the erotic or the socially provocative, an uncharacteristic trait in the socially conservative Caribbean. He has, for instance, painted a caricature of a man, grotesque in his machismo, grabbing his naked genitals while gobbling alcohol. It is Mosera’s statement against the uncurious, unthinking, and dormant man, still unaware of his mortality and fragility in the face of everything. His style is, perhaps, inimitable, and is without a doubt his own.
Mosera is himself from St. Lucia but found his way to St. Maarten via Guadeloupe. “I had a craft shop in St. Lucia,” he recalled, where he also made posters but not paintings. He expanded with another store in Guadeloupe. Then he came to St. Martin. “I came for two years initially. Here I am,” he grinned with arms out wide.
He said that if you had told him years ago that he would end up here in St. Maarten as an artist he would’ve said you were crazy. He chuckled and said, “In life you never know what is in store.”
St. Maarten is a gateway, he said. “If I was in St. Lucia, I would not have had a direct connection to Holland.” Or London, or New York, for that matter, he pointed out. He has been selected from among Dutch Caribbean artists to highlight two of his paintings in the Netherlands for an exhibition. “We have to give it that,” Mosera said of the island. “The whole Caribbean fits into St. Maarten. It’s a crazy goodness. To me, it’s healthy.”
He cited Arthur Lewis, the Nobel winning economist from St. Lucia, who said that 50% of the Caribbean economy is dormant, because its culture is still dormant, still nascent. “We don’t have enough cultured type politicians,” Mosera reflected. “The Arts is huge.”
Across the Caribbean, he said “we do not discuss the arts enough, polish it enough.” As for St. Maarten, “we suffer from the limits of a small island” as far its mindset is concerned.
His advice for genuine creativity to emerge is to foster honest, constructive criticism instead of pandering to local talent merely for its own sake. “Before they make great strides in creativity, they get swell headed. It shouldn’t be about individual egos, but more about cross collaboration. We need that kind of environment, but we’re not there yet,” he lamented.
And “just be,” he stated emphatically. Stop overemphasizing “local,” which will only limit true creative and universal potential.
“Art is not money,” Mosera calmly reflected at the end. “It is passion first, business after.” Just imagine if that motto were to be applied to every other human endeavor.