By Tessa Raebeck
From remembrances of death and celebrations of love, industrial sculptures to cartoonish monsters, the crisp lines of houses to the blurred hues of sunsets, “Phenomena” is showcasing the variety of talent on the East End through the works of six emerging artists.
“Phenomena,” which opened on Saturday at Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in Bridgehampton, is the latest installation from the Tonic Artspace.
Springs-raised Grant Haffner and his twin sister Carly Haffner are the co-founders of the Bonac Tonic Art Collective, a group established in 2005 for young, local artists on the East End. The Tonic Artspace, Mr. Haffner said, “is the next phase in the collective’s metamorphosis to hopefully more pop-up gallery type situations.”
“An undefined, forever evolving, pop-up art promoting machine that understands no boundaries,” the Tonic Artspace’s show features the work of both Haffners, Arrex, Scott Gibbons, Christine Lidrbauch and Maeve D’Arcy.
Mr. Haffner, who has grown steadily in popularity since emerging on the East End art scene, has several pieces in the show, including a print of a colorful sunset, vibrant with oranges, reds, pinks and yellows, with a two-lane road stretching into the abyss beneath it. The scene is recognizably on the East End, although the exact location is unknown—and perhaps unnecessary. When looking at the painting, it is as if the viewer is looking out the dashboard of their car or truck, driving through the colors and into the horizon.
“When I drive I feel completely alive,” writes Mr. Haffner. “For a small moment, in between this place and that, I am free from reality. My truck and I become a motion of blurred color, barreling through space and time. I like to keep my window open to listen to the sounds that traveling makes, to enjoy the smell of the landscape. Every trip is a new one, not one sunset is the same. On the road I am a part of the painting. I am movement, color, sound, adventure and emotions. This is my landscape.”
Carly Haffner has shown her work in New York City, San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia. In one painting, a tree in the foreground has a date and heart carved into it, allowing the viewer to devise their own story of what “Nov. 4th 1993” means. A house stands alone in the background, perhaps owned by the couple who carved the heart, perhaps unrelated. The apparent simplicity of her paintings gives them depth, sending the viewer’s eyes in multiple directions with tree shadows that aren’t quite natural and colored leaves that aren’t quite formed.
The Haffners’ creativity can be traced back to their father, Phil, who passed away February 6. “His passionate and creative spirit will never leave us,” the collective wrote in a press release issued to announce the show’s opening. A 1974 portrait of Phil Haffner completed by San Francisco artist Lori Weiss is displayed in his honor as a part of the show.
A core artist of the collective, Scott Gibbons of East Hampton is also showing in “Phenomena.” Gibbons’ art comes from the worlds he creates in his own head, which are filled with interesting creatures and strange characters of his imagination that he materializes through sculpture. “To put it simply, he is a creator of worlds unbeknown to conventional art circles in that he manipulates textiles to his bidding in order to convey his cartoonish and childlike whims,” the press release announcing the show stated.
Artist Christine Lidrbauch often uses found materials and discarded items to show the “melding of male and female cultures.” In one piece, a viewer far away sees a simple red and yellow flower against a pretty pink backdrop. Upon closer examination, they find the lines of the petals are in fact missiles.
Maeve D’Arcy, a visual artist from Queens, works on social justice and visual art simultaneously, with her focus on painting, drawing and sculpture. “The patterns accumulate into an urban/rural map of abstract geometric porous land masses and aerial views of real and imagined spaces,” she says.
Arrex, “a very cool up and coming street artist to keep your eyes on,” according to Mr. Haffner, created his work in the show after dealing with multiple deaths in his family and discovering that he had a tumor.
Skulls, from the same base photograph, adorn his color prints in the street art style of overlapping figures, strong black lines and mixed images. “My skulls serve as a small reminder of our mortality and the fragility that is life,” said Arrex. “The fun I have with them reflects that while life is serious business … it should also be fun.”
“Phenomena” is on view Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. and Monday through Friday by appointment at the Kathryn Markel Gallery, 2418 Main Street in Bridgehampton. For more information, visit haffnervision.com.