Barbara Hadden grew up in Peekskill, New York and ran away to New York City in order to study acting in her early 20s. “I love the city,” she said when we reached out to discuss her painting of the Sag Harbor Cinema, though she doesn’t love Manhattan as much anymore due to it becoming so crowded. She stayed there until 1976, when she moved to Southampton, and then in 1990 she fell in love with the area around Sag Harbor and bought a house overlooking a potato farm. After development marred her views, Hadden moved to North Haven, where she still resides. If you ever find yourself out and about that town, you might see her. “I walk a lot,” she says, especially when she’s stuck on a painting. Like all good ideas, hers are also won by walking.
Do you remember the last movie you watched at the cinema?
I don’t. It wasn’t recently, a couple of years ago, I think. I do still have a book of tickets. And it’s a shame because there are a lot of movies I’d like to see now.
Do you have an opinion regarding what should be done with the space?
I’d like for it to be the same thing—another movie theater. But maybe we could use it for more events and activities. I’d like to see Saturday matinees for children. They could also use the stage more. Maybe we could have live music performances and talent shows. It’s a great place in a great location. I think people come from far away to go there. I think they should use it for more than just movies.
Do you have a favorite memory of the cinema?
My favorite thing was just the way it looked from the outside, the way it was set up inside. I’ve done a few paintings of it, other than this one, because I like the way it looks.
What do you like about HarborFrost?
I like the whole wharf scene. What it is when they go in the water? The Frosty Plunge! I’ve never done it, but I wish I could. Maybe I should—if it’s warm like it is today…
Who are some other Sag Harbor artists—painters or otherwise—you admire?
I like all different artists and types of artists. Sometimes it’s more about the dedication than the product. I like Miriam Dougenis, Paton Miller and April Gornik. I’m a member of the East Hampton Artists Alliance and there are a lot of nice people there, but I don’t get out there too often. You get so isolated when you paint.
You started painting with acrylic and ink, then moved on to watercolors. Now you work in oils. Do you find one is more difficult to work with?
Watercolors are definitely more difficult, but I love them. With watercolors you can’t cover or correct mistakes as easily. There are a lot of accidents in watercolors, which sometimes work out. I just painted two watercolors, but now I’m getting ready for a show with oils.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring artist?
Go for it. The thing is to experience different media and don’t get discouraged. I never studied painting. I took a couple of classes but never studied. I really think most people could paint but don’t even know it—it’s a very good way of relaxing.
Prints of a 1992 painting by Hadden of the Sag Harbor Cinema can be purchased at the Wharf Shop at 69 Main Street in Sag Harbor.