Yesterday I had my first visitor from the family since I came to New York My oldest niece, Kelly, made the journey with a group from her high school in Maryland. I met them at the Whitney Museum of American Art on Madison Avenue. It was wonderful to see Kelly, to share a hug, and to visit with her a place new to us both.
One floor was dedicated to the art of American realist painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967). Hopper was a New Yorker, but one of his favorite places to be, and to paint, was Cape Cod. It was an experience to be examined by his work as I circled the floor. His lifelong fascination with light moved me to an insight, perhaps prematurely expressed in a poem that birthed today after just a day’s gestation (never enough for any complex creatures!). Nonetheless, though it may need work and reappear in another form, I offer it here today.
One Light (first visit to Whitney)
The most amusing moment came when
a young couple stopped in gallery
to intently gaze at a panel
of translucent light on the wall
between two paintings by Edward Hopper;
I think they never knew, it is a window.
But they were right to stop at the light
and to look long; Hopper did for
decades on cape and in-town,
and yesterday seeing what he saw
a light went on in me.
These people there in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and on,
looking for something, sitting at bed’s edge
in full or fleeing light;
wondering how to make ends meet,
if she still loves him, when war may end,
what the day will bring and what night has left;
These eyes blinking at high noon,
knowing the lighthouse hour after hour:
We are They, all united
in one light, one search,
in one celebration and lament.
Our times are the same,
our quest, our failure, our delight.
Hopper, and his, are gone forward
into darkness, or better to light,
but we stand for them
one people, steadfast
between morning and morning.
[For more, at this Washington Post link find further Edward Hopper: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2009/03/27/GA2009032700924.html%5D.
Where there is light, of course, there is also shadow. In Harlem, yesterday, from the car, I saw dozens and dozens of people, mostly the very old and the very young, standing in the cool fall air to get into two storefront medical clinics. And today, out on a walk, I saw an elderly man repairing the hood of his old Pontiac with scotchtape, plain old tape. What do you do when something needs fixing, and you don’t have the fixings to fix it?
“Maybe I am not very human –
what I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house.”
– words of Edward Hopper