This week’s cover artist, Davina Dobie, may be perceived as a woman of the world, feeling equally comfortable in the Hamptons, Kenya and South Africa. Her love of nature is what bonds her to these diverse places; no doubt it’s also her love for people. Dobie’s subjects are seemingly varied, too, featuring Port Elizabeth, airbrushed airplanes, wildlife and safari locales.
Yet Dobie likes to mix and match her subjects. For example, the rooster on the cover has an abstract image in the background, yet the artist positioned the bird there, thus adding a surrealistic touch. Dobie says that she likes to work in a surrealistic style when capturing Hamptons images. (She has already done a surreal painting of Manhattan’s High Line.) Dobie hopes to create some more local Surrealism when she returns next year to the East End.
Q: Tell us about your early years, your experiences living in different countries.
A: My father started a Mercedes-Benz franchise in East Africa in the 1940s. He moved to Kenya with my mother in 1958; she went to Switzerland to have my brother and me (we’re twins). I was brought up in Kenya but went to Paris where I got a diploma in commercial art. I went back to Kenya and then to New York, where I lived for four years.
Q: Your interest in Surrealism developed during this time, I think.
A: I did furniture antiquing, and one day I bought a toilet seat for $8. I stripped it, put on gold leaf and had an exhibit of toilet seats. They each sold for $800. I was called a “surrealistic punk artist” in the newspaper.
Q: What things happened that led you on a different path, away from being a punk artist?
A: I stopped looking at the world through a toilet seat. I also fell in love with a man and went back to Kenya to be with him. In 2005 I moved to South Africa so that I could be near my kids who were going to school there.
Q: That was a good thing to do. Is there anything specific that may have influenced your decision?
A: I was sent to school in London when I was growing up. My parents were living in Kenya. I didn’t want to be in London.
Q: Speaking of influences, what inspires you today?
A: I love animals, nature, the bush (the wild). Salvador Dali.
Q: You have been living here for the summer. How does it compare to Kenya?
A: I live on a pond off the Shinnecock Bay, so I am in nature. I have a little boat like a bathtub that I row across the Bay. And I love the wildlife here, like raccoons (who come to the house at night) and swans. Speaking of swans, I have a story. A swan was drowning another swan and I ran into the water with my clothes on to help. I grabbed the intruder by the neck and saved the one who was attacked.
Q: What is your home in Kenya like?
A: I live 30 kilometers from Nairobi on six acres of land. It’s called “Karen” after Karen Blixen who lived in the area. You know, like in the film, Out of Africa.
Q: What keeps you in Kenya?
A: The bush and the animals keep me there. Put me next to a human bring and an animal, I’ll pick the animal – although the people are fabulous, too. I have very little fear of animals.
Q: What’s your future look like in Kenya?
A: My idea is to lead tours on safari, going by helicopter, sleeping in tents. And doing paintings while on safari.
Q: And you won’t kill any animals, right.
A: I wouldn’t hurt a fly, although I must say the flies here in the Hamptons are ferocious.
Davina Dobie’s website is www.davinadobie.com