For the past week, Edward Hopper has been paying a visit to my inner life. I think it's the play of light that tells me summer is waning and fall is on its way. I have felt it in the air for well over two weeks now. One day it's distinctly summer and the next the air is tinged with an indescribable feeling of transition. We've made the turn into shorter days and softer light. A breeze has taken the few leaves that have fallen and created a small pool of gold and brown under the crab apple trees outside my kitchen window. There is the soon-to-be last mowing, the final apple picking, the grapes that are almost ready.
Many of his subjects seem to be in isolation, as though disconnected from others, from life. One gets the distinct feeling that Hopper himself felt disconnected, his life lacking in any true intimacy.
Even his houses carry that feeling of being disconnected, adrift on some nameless sea.
I no longer feel that sense of isolation from the rest of the world, a feeling I often grappled with in my early years and throughout the 1980's. When I went to the Picasso exhibit at the Walker Art Center I purchased a postcard depicting Hopper's painting, "Seven a.m." It immediately spoke to me, as though I was calling up some long buried memory of a time and place I once inhabited, perhaps inhabit still somewhere in this vast universe. Despite the feeling of melancholy it evoked, I also began to feel a pull towards a greater connection with something, to other souls who were seeking connection, a sense of place in the world.
Edward Hopper's wife, Josephine, who was often his model, was also a painter. As with many artistic couples in the past, it was usually the woman who was relegated to a lesser position in the art world, who took the back seat, whose work somehow never made the splashy entrance into our consciousness. Jackson Pollack and Lee Krasner come to mind. Perhaps that's why I'm drawn to Hopper's painting of, "Jo in Wyoming," in which he clearly is viewing her as being in the front seat, painting. But, I'm getting off topic.
So, what is my topic? I don't think the topic is melancholy. I don't feel melancholy at all. It seems that doesn't play a role in my life nearly as much as it used to. I think the topic is light. I have been noticing often this summer how it plays against the curtains as it falls through the window, how it moves, creating the shadows that lie on the green lawn, and now, as we move through these final days of summer, it often hides behind the clouds only to emerge a short while later and it does this all day, until dusk takes hold.
Last night, after visiting with a friend on the phone and going over the summer, what it brought for both of us, and just as valuable, what it didn't, I stepped outside and onto the lawn in my bare feet, looked up at the Big Dipper hanging just above the treetops, and said goodbye to summer. Perhaps a tad premature, but I felt it was time. Somewhere in the distance, fireworks were going off.
While I thought about this post - Edward and Josephine, summer light and falling leaves - Joan Baez' song, "Diamonds and Rust," came to mind. She and Bob Dylan went their separate ways, each to follow their own life, through their own art. There are brown leaves falling and snow in his hair, but it was the line about Washington Square that gave me permission to post this, bringing together what might appear at first to be disparate subjects. Edward Hopper died in his studio near Washington Square back in May of 1967. Josephine followed him ten months later.
Here is Joan: