The Out-of-Towners The In-Towner The About-Towner
Up walked a man and a woman who seemed to have stepped off the pages of some outdoor wear catalog. He wore a flannel shirt, and she had on a sleeveless fleece vest. His glasses were round and beard full, while her glasses were square and her lean tan face sported crow's feet. She did most of the talking.
"We're in town to study these too," she cooed. "I'm supposed to give a mini-lecture in conjunction with a film about him at the art institute in Kalamazoo. We had a visiting curator, and he boldly titled his lecture, 'The Ten Most Significant Paintings of the Twentieth Century,' which of course is the way to get yourself into trouble right away. He picked Early Sunday Morning as one of them. He talked about how it was American Realism, but it bridges to more abstract ways of looking at things.
"I was just saying to Tom that, 'cause I've seen them mostly in reproductions in glossy books, they look much harder, less painterly. I think Hopper always kind of goes, 'unh'." She makes a fist to show how solidly Hopper places his shapes.
Tom finally jumped in, "The way in which he placed things is so much more sophisticated. It's like the way the Orientals look at balance. He has such big spaces that are not busy. You have maybe two main figures. It's difficult to achieve balance with such big spaces. There's a confidence in his drawing, and drawing is so important. They [Hopper's paintings] really open up the more time you spend in front of them."
The woman frowned, "There's a very old film interview with him. He totally sounds like he's inarticulate. But he isn't; he just doesn't know what to say. Maybe one of the fascinations with him is that he's such a mystery. In America, we don't like that much."
A stocky twenty-something kid bounded in, wearing a tight gray T-shirt whose long arms he had pulled down over his hands and crossed over his chest. White teeth slashed a smirk across his ruddy five o'clock shadow beneath wide green eyes.
"I'm no expert," he shrugged when I asked about the paintings. But when I clarified that I was interested in how they related to New York, he exclaimed, "That's my town! A little different than Hopper's towns." He spoke with the clipped phrases of an entrepreneur spouting business aphorisms. "That's very New York," he asserted. "Claustrophobic."
I pointed to Early Sunday Morning. "That's Seventh Avenue."
"New York?! If it is, it's not there any more."
"Do you feel people in your community are isolated like these characters?"
He screwed up his face. "Contrary to how it might seem, New York is kind of a lonely place. Despite being around people constantly. Generally it's got a neighborhoody feeling--possibility of. I don't think of Hopper as really gloomy. I guess they do seem isolated, but you get the sense of a community somewhere around them. Seems that there is an environment around them of people, and that's what they are isolated from." He bobbed his head goodbye and bounced off to the next gallery.
After him, in swept an older woman dressed in black with a rust-colored shawl dramatically tossed over her shoulder. Her long fingers tightly folded over her tiny black purse.
"Can I ask you about these paintings?" I asked.
"About Hoppah?" Used to having her opinion solicited, she continued without waiting for me to confirm. "Lonely. Sad. You kind of find yourself in the middle. And that's hahd in any situation. The middle…," she paused for dramatic effect and demonstrated with her hands, "opens out." Then she flicked a smile and stalked out.