For my tenth birthday in the summer of 1981, my aunt and uncle gave me a book of Edward Hopper’s paintings and drawings. The book, paper not hardcover, had been published to accompany a massive 1980 Hopper retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum of Art. It was the first grown-up art book I ever owned, and in no time Hopper had replaced Norman Rockwell as my favorite artist (non-comic book category).
I was drawn to Hopper’s pictures in a way that I couldn’t articulate at the time. It didn’t occur to me until later that the people in his paintings didn’t smile. I found their melancholy inviting and I appreciated their contemplative, lonely world. Even when people are together in his pictures, they seem to be by themselves.
This was before I learned about Hopper’s strong compositions, his use of space, color, and light—oh, his famous light—in any conscious way. That all came later. When I was ten years old, I just knew his world felt familiar and comfortable and that I wanted to be in one of those paintings.