Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Yellow Hat, Chop Suey, Hawks, and Why I Am An Artist

 The Automat
by William Hopper

Last week I visited the Des Moines Art Center with my husband.  We try to go at least three or four times a year, more if there is a special exhibit going on. They take pride in their extensive contemporary art collection, abstract and post modern, and they also have a nice little collection of artwork by 19th and 20th Century artists, which is my favorite.  The exhibit that caught my attention this time was Edward Hopper: Images and Influences.  It was small, only two Hopper paintings and a few drawings plus some other work by artists of his era, but I have loved Hopper's work ever since being taken to the Art Center as a child.  I don't remember my exact age, but it must have been around ten or eleven and I probably tagged along on some occasion when my older sister wanted to go. Hopper's The Automat is part of the permanent collection and I remember being so excited about the "Lady With the Yellow Hat," which was my name for the painting, I couldn't stop talking about it. I loved the pretty lady, her beautiful clothes, the lights reflected in the window. I wondered what she was doing there alone at night, and of course had to know what an "automat" was.  My mother explained it was a restaurant where the food was kept behind a sort of wall with a number of glass windows.  A person would insert coins into a machine and then lift a window to remove the sandwich or piece of pie. Sort of a precursor of the vending machine, except that there was a kitchen behind the wall where the food was being prepared. I suppose it eliminated the need for waiters. Anyway it all sounded very romantic to me.  But the reason I have never forgotten this painting is that it made me aware of the world of art.  Drawing and re-drawing that picture drew me into a lifelong fascination with marks on paper, pictures that tell stories and colors that jump out and grab the viewer.  Though my work today doesn't show much of Hopper's influence, he was the catalyst.  He was the reason I wanted to be an artist.

Chop Suey
by William Hopper

This is the other Hopper painting in the exhibit. It is on loan from the Seattle Art Museum. Though there are many similarities, it has a different feeling from The Automat.  I like it very much, but am not sure it would have had the same effect on me.  What wold have happened if the Des Moines curator had bought the other painting?

As an adult, I discovered that Hopper's work reflected his perception of the isolation of modern life.  This is evident in both paintings, though perhaps more obvious in The Automat.  In Chop Suey, the figures while not entirely alone, are really not relating to each other, neither the two young ladies having tea, nor the couple in the background.  The painting, Night Hawks, (not a part of the Des Moines exhibit) emphasizes even more the concept of being alone, even when you are not alone.  If you are not familiar with this one,  here is a copy of it.

Night Hawks
by William Hopper

Of course, none of this mattered to me. I saw a pretty girl in a yellow hat and I wanted to draw a picture of her.  Who knows where things will lead?

Now, how I got from drawing ladies in yellow hats as a child to where I am now is another story for another time.  So I guess this blog will end with "to be continued.."

1 comment:

L. D. Burgus said...

This is a very nice blog. Good job!!!