127 Dayton, OH: He's Got the Whole World

Downtown Dayton, Days Gone By

Many who I approached begrudgingly offered brief answers as if put-upon.

The volunteer who met me at the door was a short older woman with wispy platinum hair and drawn-on black eyebrows. "Well I suppose sometimes you are," she said about isolation, "and sometimes you're not." Then she smiled and nodded, as if that were all that need be said.

I asked a gray-haired woman wearing pink denim pants and a pink T-shirt if one might see a house like that in Dayton. "Hopefully," she growled, "it would have some landscaping around it."

A petite, green-eyed, college-aged girl wearing a tight silver choker around her neck and two earrings in each ear said that she didn’t perceive people in Dayton as especially isolated but that people in the U.S. were. "My dad went to Italy. He said, out there, people asked him to play cards and stuff. But here, you go in the streets at night, and everybody's shut in their own houses and they don't join you."

A woman from London's West End who said she moved here when she was fifty (I thought she was fifty she looked in such good shape), said that Hopper's isolation and desperation did not relate to her life at all. "I'm seventy-three, love. I've got food in my tummy, a roof over my head, a job to go to, a nice car, and I live in the United States. What more could you want?"

A couple in their late twenties walked into the gallery. The man was lanky, with an overbite and long wavy brown hair. His wispy beard looked soft as an unshaven adolescent's. He wore a black shirt that showed the parts of the earth with the center labeled in large red letters "magma."

When I asked the guy about Hopper, he pulled over his wife, who he said was Valerie and a painter. She was short and had an oddly angular face. She wore jeans and a light blue shirt, and a humble ring rested on her marriage finger.

"I like Dali and the surrealists," she squeezed out in a voice that gave the impression of being very shy. "I mean avant garde. Hopper’s not my favorite. I'm not into this almost porn thing. I like this painting though. It's a good painting."

When I asked her if she thought people in Dayton were isolated like in Hopper's paintings, she answered only, "Probably."

Her husband offered his thoughts in a croaky tight voice. "I've seen Hopper's work and Wyeth's Christina's World together. They weren't next to each other or anything, but they reminded me of each other. It's a field, and a woman alone, and a house in the distance."

"I hadn't made that connection," the woman murmured, amazed that her husband held new revelations.

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