The House that Inspired the Painter
My attention operates with cyclical obsession. An idea will blow in on the breeze and lodge itself firmly in my mind. It’ll then go about the business of devouring my thoughts until it uses them up and moves on, leaving space for the next obsession to move in.
Art has been a persistent interest in my life. The magnitude of my attention to it waxes and wanes but never goes away. Over the last six months, I’ve had a keen interest in the imagery created by American artist, Edward Hopper. His name, first whispered into my ear while growing up in Rockland County, NY not far from where Hopper himself grew up.
A few weeks ago, I posted about eating breakfast at the filling station on 9W. It has been suggested that the building was the inspiration of Hopper’s “Gas.” This painting tickles some part of my brain that I cannot seem to sufficiently articulate with words. Looking at it creates an actual sensation, a feeling of longing, of melancholy and nostalgia. I can feel the scene of the painting as if I’d experienced it first hand. It is like a photograph I’ve taken myself.
Recently, I read an article about a how Hopper’s 1925 House by the Railroad served as an inspiration for the facade of the Bates House in Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Throughout my life, I’ve passed the house that Hopper painted many times. But, I never had a frame of reference that called its existence to my attention. Now, I cannot escape the feeling of wanting to go and see it, see it with purpose. I’ve got a pin on my Google map that keeps calling my name.
With the idea-seed planted by Hopper’s painting, I had to see the house for myself. Part of me was expecting to have a deep and resonating experience when I laid eyes on it. But, I confess, I did not. What I experience with his painting is far more moving. Perhaps that is the true testament of a great artist – the ability to make you see or feel something where your own eyes would not.
Think of all of the things in our world that we’re missing out on, that we glide right by. So many wonderful things are hiding in plain sight, just waiting for us to wake to them.
Last week I received a copy of Gail Levin’s Hopper’s Places. In it, the author creates a catalog of photographs of the actual locations that served as an inspiration to some of the artist’s works. It is important to note that while he is a realist painter, he did take liberties, in particular with the surrounding environs and eliminating the presence of people throughout his work. You can see evidence of that with the House by the Railroad.
Introverted Hopper’s painting are like postcards from places I’ve never been but I feel like I know well.
To me the most important thing is the sense of going on. You know how beautiful things are when you’re traveling.”