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.
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?
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.
Your work is about journeys. What’s your own journey been like?
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.
There are other more specific subjects you deal with, too.
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.
Your compositions have become your signature. How would you describe them?
Linear perspectives of power lines or sails, for example. There’s also abstraction there in the sky and clouds, the way I handle ground.
Obviously, the physical area here is important to you, but how did growing up in the area influence you going into art?
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.
How did your parents influence you in art?
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.”
Your parents took you on road trips. That was also an important influence, considering your themes.
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.
How about any formal art education?
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.
What did you learn from that experience?
My teachers there said to drop out and go home and just make art. So I did.
How do you feel now about where you are, professionally and personally?
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