23 Asking of Others

John's answers awakened me to a belief I held that partly motivated my undertaking: people will give of their deepest selves if you ask them questions more meaningful than their preference of laundry detergent or politician. It also made me think that I might find more level-headed views of Hopper from average folks than from art critics.

Hopper's subjects can mostly be divided into three groups: women, city scenes, and landscapes. Critics have disparaged his paintings of females as voyeuristic, as if you are in the painting, implicated in a drama. They also have noted that his city buildings look more animated than his people (who often have indistinct faces). And his landscapes have been called nostalgic. All three points have been made derogatorily. But critics damn Hopper and his paintings for one reason: his paintings make us uncomfortable. They make us squirm. They make us sad. They hit home. And I wanted to know what "home" people felt being hit. No one had asked the American people, the kind of people you might find in his paintings, whether the isolation depicted in Hopper's works was reflected in their lives. I thought that was a better measure of his legacy than what critics said, even his biographer.

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