125 Dayton, OH: High Noon Again

The Hopper painting in the DAI museum was called High Noon, and my return to see it represented an emotional showdown like the final gunfight scene in the 1952 movie High Noon starring Gary Cooper. (Hopper's painting was done in 1949.)

I grew up in a Dayton suburb, and the DAI was the site of one of the most traumatic events in my childhood. My family returned from a visit there once to find my older teenage sister home in bed with her forbidden boyfriend, and a huge family fight ensued. Maybe the horror of what happened afterward made the museum seem like a haven and forever fixated me on visiting them. I'm not a fan of such facile psychological one-to-one explanations, and neither was Hopper.

Interestingly, I discovered in Dayton's museum files of an article by GQ special correspondent Peter Richmond, who shared the same dream as I. "My idea of the good life," he wrote, "wouldn't be to own a Hopper; it would be to live in one." He cited specifically High Noon. "This stillness must be what people are trying to find when they spend enormous amounts of money vacationing at the remote Caribbean resorts or buy whole islands in the South Pacific…. Upstairs beyond waving curtains, her bedroom is dark. There might be someone in it. There might have been someone in it not long ago. There might be someone in it soon. Me, maybe."

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