By Marianna Levine
“My tribute to the landscape is to paint it,” explains local artist Grant Haffner, who will be part of this year’s Labor Day Landscape Show, entitled A Walk on the Wild Side, opening on Friday September 4 at Ashawagh Hall in Springs. It’s a show in which a portion of the proceeds benefits The Nature Conservancy.
Haffner is one of 13 artists who were asked by the show’s organizer, photographer Tom Steele, to contribute work to a show that focuses on how nature and the landscape inspires artists. Casey Chalem Anderson, another exhibitor, who assisted Steele in this year’s planning of the exhibit, explains, “We really emphasize a mix of artists that take the local landscape as their inspiration.” She muses this doesn’t mean the show is all plein air landscapes, but encompasses abstract and three dimensional work as well.
For example, Heffner, who is exhibiting for the first time in this group show, takes his inspiration from the roads he drives as much as from the natural bays and beaches of the East End. He paints in bright colors, and although very figurative, his images have a pop art feel to them.
Haffner is a native East Ender who grew up in East Hampton, but is currently relocating to North Haven, which he states has already changed what he is painting.
“My drive each day to work inspires me the most. I’m now painting a lot of Long Beach, and I think I will try to include the harbor and bridge too.”
However, he decided to focus on Accabonac Harbor for the paintings he is exhibiting at Ashawagh Hall, since the show’s theme is beaches, bays, and salt marshes.
Barbara Pintauro Lobosco, who’s exhibiting her paintings for the second time, enthuses, “I like to be involved with a group that preserves the land. Especially since I love to paint what is uniquely here in the Hamptons.”
Like Anderson, she explains that the work in the show isn’t necessarily plein air painting, and that her’s certainly isn’t. Although she has primarily worked with representing the sky and the sea, her primary interest is in color, and lately trees and the land have inspired her. Also like Haffner she is a long-time resident of the area, having raised a family out here as well as serving on the board of directors of the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum. All artists including Anderson say the area’s beauty is their main inspiration and all feel they have a deep relationship with the East End.
Anderson, a native New Yorker, who lived for a long time in California, returned to the east coast and Sag Harbor about 17 years ago. She noted her work was primarily figurative until she moved here and focused more and more on landscapes.
“I really relate to the horizontal landscape, and I really rely on the natural landscape as my inspiration to paint. I feel I really got lucky living here,” Anderson explains, and then elaborates on her reason for wanting to support the Nature conservancy.
“I’m very aware of the fragility of the land that the Nature Conservancy protects,” she said. “If we don’t take care of it, it will no longer be as pristine.”
Haffner completely agrees, “It’s nice to contribute something to the Nature Conservancy because they preserve the landscape I use as my inspiration.” And goes on to add, “the landscape here is so beautiful. It has great feeling and energy. At the end of my busy day — and you know you have to work hard to live out here as an artist — I can still sit down and watch a sunset on a beach. I’ve driven across the country but nothing inspires me like here.”
Steele has been putting this show together for five years and selects all the artists who exhibit their work in the show. As well as photography and painting, the exhibit also includes three-dimensional work and tapestry, giving it an interesting eclectic mix. Anderson states, “We’ve had some very successful shows in terms of viewers and sales.”
The show will run at Ashawagh Hall through September 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with an opening reception on Saturday, September 5 from 5-8 p.m.