If you haven’t seen Dan Rattiner riding a lobster, welcoming all to Dan’s Country, near Hills Station Road in Southampton, it’s a sight to behold. This week’s cover artist, Meredith Kennedy, who lives not far away from the Teflon fiberglass Dan, had a hand in its design and so is quite familiar with the crustacean creation.
Your cover is obviously an homage to Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” Why did you choose this painting as your starting point?
When the statue appeared earlier this summer on the corner of Hills Station Road, I had to stop and check it out. Dan is such an East End icon, and I thought it a fitting tribute to have him riding a lobster at the unofficial entrance gate to the Hamptons. I appreciate a good satire, and thought what better way to pay homage to the master than with a modern interpretation of a classic, with Dan as the subject.
Venus was a goddess. Dan is the “King of the Hamptons.” How does the original concept of the “Birth of Venus” relate to Dan’s status as such?
Although we all know he is flesh and blood, Dan does have mythological status in the Hamptons. Spotting his iconic hat at an event is almost like finding Waldo.
Can you talk about the process of creating this piece?
This is truly a multi-media piece. My origins as an artist are in Art Direction and Graphic Design, but I also dabble in photography, “visual artist” is probably a better term. I used an image of Napeague Bay as the background, layering on trumpeting angels gracing the centerpiece of Dan on his glorious lobster coming out of a clamshell. A loose interpretation of Botticelli’s masterpiece with local flair.
Who are some artists who have inspired your work?
I constantly am looking for new inspiration, and I think my years as an art director make me appreciate artists with a message and a graphic quality. I love the paintings of Kelly Reemtsen and the photography of Pol Ubeda Hervas.
How do you juggle your work as an artist with having two young children?
I worked in advertising in Manhattan for many years, even commuting from Shinnecock Hills, but decided to go on my own two years ago. I opened Acre Arts, and besides artistic photography and multi-media art, I have been working on branding, websites, and design projects locally. It’s always a struggle, but having no commute and the ability to work on my own time has been a godsend. Being able to work and create in such a beautiful setting is incredibly inspirational. You will often find me with a sketchbook and a laptop sitting by the beach.
Is there one piece of advice you’ve received in your career as an artist that you’ve always remembered?
Coming from an agency background, I was told early on that you have to have a thick skin. When you put yourself out there through your work, you have to believe in it, and please yourself. If someone doesn’t like it, so be it, but if you believe in it and are proud of it, that’s all that matters.
Now that summer is over, what are you most looking forward to this fall on the East End?
It’s prime picture time! The sky and the light this time of year are incredible. One of the things I’m most proud of as a parent is instilling a sense of wonder and awareness of the beauty that is everywhere on the East End in my children. I’m constantly reminding them to take a moment to look up (or down) to find something interesting in their surroundings.