This week’s cover (“Winter on Long Beach”) by Grant Haffner is intriguing, especially the subject matter and the artist’s signature style and tone. We can’t help but remember Haffner’s works that feature open road where vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines meet, and candy-stripe colors enhance the Magic Realism. We also can’t forget their themes of desolation, which are counterbalanced by the theatrical environment. As a film lover, this art critic recalls movies that evoke similar “on-the-road” themes that suggest desolation as well as alienation and isolation: consider Easy Rider and Into the Wild.
Yet Haffner’s road paintings do not convey extreme loneliness. There is a joie-de-vivre spirit present as well. The telephone poles give a sense of comfort, promising the existence of communication along our journey—we are not alone. Haffner’s cover of Long Beach brings forth the same sensibilities with their telephone poles and iconic sweeping road.
How did the cover image come about?
I paint where I am. My wife and I rent a house in North Haven, and I see Long Beach when I go back and forth from work. It’s part of my life. For the cover, I remember going to the location when it was snowing, and I took photographs. The thick grey clouds matched the grey background.
Do you ever paint the same location more than once?
I do, but I may capture a different season. Van Gogh painted his apple orchard many times, but it was different each time.
You started painting three to four years ago. What did you do before that?
I worked in landscaping for 10 years after college. I would spend 10 hours a day outdoors. I spend a lot of time looking at things outside, staring at the sky.
How did that help you as a person or as a painter later on?
What I learned was about nature, observation. Ten years outside made me have the vision I have. I was constantly moving when I was mowing the lawn. I never slowed down.
About your movement outside, your road paintings show movement, too. That’s interesting. You are now working at the DIA Center in Bridgehampton, where Dan Flavin has a permanent exhibition. How does that help your art?
I get to talk and engage with people. People come here from all over the world. Today a German man came from New York just for the day to see Flavin’s work. Being at DIA also helps me focus my mind on one thing instead of many different things.
How does your gallery help you with your art?
Vered Gallery (which represents Haffner) encourages me to be more ambitious, to make bigger canvases.
What will you be doing in five years?
I still have a lot to do. More locations to paint, vistas to find. I am learning as I go. I want to be getting bigger and better.
See Grant Haffner’s work at GrantHaffner.com.