I sort of have a Hopper

ONE of my extraordinary experiences, living in New York, has been to find an eyesore become a work of art. I first moved into my New York apartment about 20 years ago, when my husband happened to inherit it. I felt it had no view. The room I sit in now, and which I frequent most, looked out on the side wall of another huge apartment house. Perhaps because of my peculiar sensitivity to views as a native of San Francisco, the outlook, to me, was an absolute disaster. I felt blocked by the wall outside. It seemed to threaten me, as though it were a dark and deadening obstacle.

In an effort to obliterate the wall from my awareness, I carefully and determinedly set about accoutering the inside of the apartment -- creating vistas here, positioning paintings there (all with a sense of space and distance), and placing around as ornaments art objects which to me are arresting and fulfilling.

Then one day, in the Whitney Museum of American Art, over on Madison Avenue, I came upon a painting entitled ``Early Sunday Morning.'' I came upon it with a shiver of surprise.

I could not believe it. I was astonished. Here was my wall, my loathed and despised wall . . . and here it was a work of art!

Not only was it a work of art, it was a work of Edward Hopper, one of my favorite American artists. For many years, his paintings -- especially the blue-gray ``House by the Railroad'' -- had seemed to me the ultimate of personal aloneness.

Having deplored the cultural Francophilia of the America of my youth, I had come to feel an indebtedness to Hopper, who, along with a few of his contemporaries, had ushered into the United States an awareness of indigenous creativity of which American art lovers could be proud. He brought a new consciousness of the American way -- its people, landscapes, hotel rooms, restaurants, throughways, gas stations -- which helped to free American art from foreign influence.

And now finally, through his street scene, I am as personally and emotionally drawn to him as I had earlier felt intellectually and artistically attracted. His painting ``Early Sunday Morning'' reverses an important aspect of my life from negative to positive.

Instead of looking out of my window, as formerly, with dread, I now look through it with curiosity, fascination, and enthusiasm. For the nonexistent price of looking through my window I have the raw stuff from which a Hopper was made.

Now, rather than recoil from my outlook, I gravitate to it. I study it, not only from the point of view of art, but also from the viewpoint of sociology and the human condition, which so much intrigued Hopper. I study it in the daytime to try to figure out his shadings, his approaches; and I study it in the nighttime, to comprehend the individuality behind the open and shut curtains.

From having been a no-view view, my exposure is now glorified. I sort of have a Hopper!

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