Dan's Cover Artist Barbara Hadden | Dan's Papers | By Joan Baum
Barbara Hadden’s lovely “Sag Harbor Windmill at Sunset,” one of several recent paintings she’s exhibiting at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum in celebration of this weekend’s HarborFest, evokes a sense of storybook serenity, nature as sweet harmony. It’s a charming scene without people. This is not, of course, the way HarborFest really is—streets are jammed, and the iconic windmill area by Long Wharf at the foot of Main Street is crowded with residents and tourists who have come to see, hear, shop and amble along.
HarborFest is an unofficial homage to the end of summer and a celebration of local history. Hadden’s pleasant, muted-color oil painting invests the familiar scene with nostalgia, albeit created: the Sag Harbor windmill, unlike authentic gristmills and wind pumps on the East End, is only 49 years old, but Hadden’s picturesque composition captures the community mood of “Our Town,” the name of her exhibit at the Whaling Museum with fellow local artist Michael A. Butler. The image also exemplifies Hadden’s recent work—pleasing land and seascapes that show her turn from acrylic and ink and watercolor to water-based oils.
The “Our Town” exhibit may, for some folks, call to mind Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play of that name. You left your town of Peekskill and came to New York City to pursue an acting career. How long did it take you to realize that acting was not for you and when did you start drawing and painting?
I was serious about wanting to be an actress when I settled in the city. I took classes at the Actors Studio. I also met and became friends with Kim Stanley, whom I saw multiple times in the same show because I thought she was that good. I felt I couldn’t be that kind of actress. We remained close friends, however, until her death. Dusty Hoffman was a classmate, a wonderful guy. We did improvisations together—once we were both drops of water coming down a shower curtain. Mildred Dunnock was a teacher. I didn’t start painting until I was out in Southampton and settled in with my partner of 46 years now, Jane. She’s from England. She was a nurse and midwife whom I met at Roosevelt Hospital in the city. She studied at the Art Students League for a while and now works in glass.