In Australia we just had RU OK? day. Which is a day to ask people around you if they are ok – the mission is to inspire and empower people to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. In the spirit of this day, I thought id post a painting that embodies the feeling of being surrounded by society but still being very much alone. Urban alienation.
Edward Hopper was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. It was well known that he was a quiet introverted man who painted “ short isolated moments, saturated with suggestion” and this painting, The Automat, is dripping with suggestion.
We have a girl – a fashionable and well-dressed girl – who sits quietly with her hat pulled low and seems tired and pensive. And even though there are presumably other people in the restaurant (automat’s were generally a busy place to be) she is totally alone from the perspective we are viewing it from. The window behind her shows nothing but darkness and the reflective lights give a tunnel effect of leading to nowhere. This lonely solitary moment is caught in time. Hopper has challenged us to make up our own story about this girl – what is happening in her life that has drawn her to this moment – to be so alone yet almost distracted (note that she has removed one glove only).
Though the painting is a solitary painting, its not a sad painting. The colour scheme is comforting, there is a certain warmth to it, and while there are parts that make you feel uncomfortable, (eg: the too bright legs intentionally making the viewer into a voyeur) I think its a painting that you can view over and over and get something new from it every time depending on how you are feeling.
“ If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint ”
– Edward Hopper.
What do you think of this painting and more importantly, RU OK? Its OK not to be, but please make sure you tell someone and start the conversation. Its not the load that breaks you down, its how you carry it.