Ross Bleckner is the quintessential Hamptons artist, rising at 6:30 each morning to work in his studio. His work, acquired by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and many esteemed East End private collectors, will be seen inside the new Parrish Art Museum when it opens this fall in Water Mill. “I feel like a young artist,” says Bleckner. “The only thing that matters is what you are doing today and the work you are going to be doing. You could have been around a long time, but the idea you are still a young artist who hasn’t accomplished everything is an important thing to remember.”

This year, Bleckner, a professor at New York University and a UN Goodwill Ambassador, will be celebrating a new edition of his book, My Life in The New York Times, coming out this winter. He will also host a benefit for the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (Acria)—an organization which he chaired for 15 years—at his house on July 21. “We have done a lot of art events where we merge artists with collectors,” says Bleckner, of Acria, an AIDS education and preventative services philanthropy. He says this event is “kind of a swan song, a farewell to being board president. The torch has been passed.”

That’s not to say Bleckner will be lacking in projects. “I’m working on the expanded version of My Life in The New York Times, right now,” says the artist. “All the years of images, clippings, words, notes, and drawings from my notebook—I took only the things I cut out from The New York Times. I constructed them loosely, all the quotes going from birth to death; a little advice, things from speeches, from reviews; things that had inspirational value over the last 20 years. I love clipping.”

Inside his studio, Bleckner also has several paintings in progress. “I work on different things at the same time,” he says. “I move them around as they are drying, and keep working. It’s always good to have a few things going at once. Plus, the images get to talk to each other and have a little conversation.”

Bleckner’s paintings have featured symbolic interpretations of everything from hummingbirds to candelabras, even cancer cells—a series he painted in response to his father’s death from prostate cancer in 1998. “I did a lot of paintings over the years that deal with things in the body,” says Bleckner. “I’ve always been interested in death. You know, death is not a really morose subject—it’s a subject. People deal with it in a lot of different ways. It’s a way to make your life more meaningful when you know that it’s finite.”

Today, the artist lives in the Sagaponack hideaway once owned by literary recluse Truman Capote. “I bought it because I love that neighborhood,” says Bleckner. “I had a fire two years ago and had to rebuild the house. The following summer I spent in the city, and then I realized I’d been getting it wrong all these years. You should go to the Hamptons in the winter and come to New York City in the summer. Off-season, when the population diminishes by half, it’s wonderful.”

That’s not to say Bleckner will soon take on the antisocial behavior of his home’s former resident. “When you are working, you have to work, and when you are not working, you can be out a little bit,” he says. “It’s a great place to work because you really have that option. That’s why when people complain about all of the stuff out here, I just say close the door. Nobody is coming to your house and beating the door down and dragging you out by your hair.”

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