This week’s Dan’s Papers cover by Grant Haffner, “Long Wharf at Dawn,” is a lot like the artist’s other paintings: fantasy-like with colors that remind us of candy. The cover, however, is also different from Haffner’s signature works, conveying an “end-of-the-line” view of the setting. Conversely, many other pieces show us the open road where we are speeding toward the horizon, perhaps also nearing the end-of-the-line, all the while experiencing a great adventure. What’s especially intriguing about the work is the contradiction established: Haffner’s style seems like fantasy, but we really feel as if we are actually experiencing real life.
Q: You are working at the Dan Flavin Art Institute in Bridgehampton, which shows Dan Flavin’s art. Your paintings recall Flavin’s sculpture. What’s your connection with Flavin?
A: I’m the caretaker of his Art Institute; I manage the sculpture. Dan was so ahead of himself. It’s hard to realize that his work was done in the 1960s and ’70s. I can see the influence of his work on mine in my use of lines.
Q: Your work is about journeys. What’s your own journey been like?
A: I typically paint where I live. I grew up in Springs and painted Amagansett, Napeague. I now live in North Haven so Long Wharf is nearby. I’m a morning person, so that’s why the setting is at dawn. The air at dawn is fresh, crispier. I like locally oriented themes.
Q: There are other more specific subjects you deal with, too.
A: Yes, where there are road intersections. Basically, I enjoy landscapes. I also have a fascination for boats, marinas. Those things are an important legacy for this area. I love the water and the idea that we are near it.
Q: Your compositions have become your signature. How would you describe them?
A: Linear perspectives of power lines or sails, for example. There’s also abstraction there in the sky and clouds, the way I handle ground.
Q: Obviously, the physical area here is important to you, but how did growing up in the area influence your going into art?
A: I grew up here seeing artists do landscape, and my parents would take me to openings. I remember going to openings at the Vered Gallery when I was young. Now I am showing at Vered. It’s living a dream.
Q: How did your parents influence you in art?
A: My father was an architect, and my mother had art in her soul. She pushed us to make art. She would put me in front of some paper and I would draw, making a whole town out of paper. I do remember that my father gave me this advice. “If you want to make your art interesting, put in both background and foreground objects.”
Q: Your parents took you on road trips. That was also an important influence, considering your themes.
A: I was born in California, but in 1982 my parents got wind of a great thing in Long Island, and they sold everything and rented a camper. We drove across the country. Since then, I have done it again.
Q: How about any formal art education?
A: I went to the University of Massachusetts and majored in science and math. I also had a big thing for agriculture. But I dropped out in my junior year and worked as an arborist, identifying insects on trees. I also went to the School of Visual Arts. That opened my eyes. I started as a freshman again.
Q: What did you learn from that experience?
A: My teachers there said to drop out and go home and just make art. So I did.
Q: How do you feel now about where you are, professionally and personally?
A: I really feel like I’m an artist. I can’t complain. My wife and I are actually having our first baby on November 13. What an adventure.
Brought to you by Southfork Kitchen in Bridgehampton