Wednesday’s Honors Seminar further broadened my approach to looking at paintings. Since beginning this class and reading Ways of Seeing I have noticed a change in the way I view paintings. Rather than simply trying to imagine what the artist is attempting to portray when creating his/her work I take more initiative to see the different situations that could have sparked the artist’s imagination. When examining Hopper’s “New York Interior” I first thought that it depicted a girl who had just returned from a ball and was resting following a night out. Further into our class discussion, however, Professor Kahan shared her opinion, stating that the painting might have been an image of a girl sewing her dress, perhaps after performing at a ballet recital. The idea that she was a dancer definitely came from the fact that the muscles on the woman in the photo were extremely defined thanks to Hopper’s choice of shading and use of harsh lighting.
Harsh lighting, in my opinion, seems to be a recurring theme with Hopper. For example, in “Nighthawks” another female figure became the victim to harsh lighting. The woman to the back of the painting looked “clown like” as a result of the fluorescent lighting in the painting, which caused her skin tone to appear ghostly white. It also exaggerated her otherwise subtle makeup. Another aspect of Hopper’s style is clearly his love for symmetry in his paintings. In my opinion, it almost appears as though he suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) when creating his works. In almost all of the works Professor Kahan showed us, I noticed a constant theme of shapes in each painting. For example, “Night Shadows” was predominantly vertical, “New york Interior” multiple, vertical rectangles, and “Early Sunday Morning” rectangles. I feel like creating a painting without any recurring shapes would lead to Hopper’s anxiety. In addition to different shapes characterizing Hopper’s style, I think his motif is characterized by emphasizing certain times of day (particularly the night or early morning) and specific settings like street corners. These specific traits are evident in both “Nighthawks” and “Night Shadows.”
In addition to Edward Hopper, wednesday’s seminar consisted of defining the ideas of man vs. woman in regards to each gender’s Ways of Seeing. When we looked at the example of Robert De Niro, what immediately registered in my mind was that a woman could never pull off the “I could hardly care about my image” look that Robert was. Because we have seen him play characters with this precise attitude no one would question it. Other talented actors like Leonardo di Caprio, for example, would have never attended a film festival looking quite as disheveled. If a talented actress like Meryl Streep were to even attempt the same “look” I am sure it would be front page news.
This double standard toward the appearance of men and women has always seemed to be a part of our culture and though I dislike it, I am sure it will not cease to exist.