Waiting for Hopper

Above: The work in progess, or book as wall hanging.

Edward Hopper and Josephine Nivison married late—in 1924, when he was 42 and she was 41—and thus it is not surprising that their union produced no offspring. No human offspring, that is, for Jo liked to refer to her husband’s paintings as their “children.”  In letters to the paintings’ eventual owners,  whom Jo considered to be the Hoppers’  “sort of in-laws,” she expressed concern for the welfare of these “children,” hoping that they were “happy,” hung properly and well cared for, and in the case of the fragile watercolors, out of direct sunlight.

Waiting for Edward Hopper in Vermont to be released, I identify with Jo’s concept. Expecting the release of a book is much like expecting the arrival of a baby: exciting to anticipate but also rather scary.  Sometimes the wait seems endless; the gestation period for most books is so long that it makes human births seem all the more miraculous. Nevertheless, now that the day is almost here, I feel somewhat reluctant to send my creation out into the world.  How can I protect it from those who might not see it with the loving eyes of a parent?  Will it find comfortable shelf space in homes and libraries, and most of all, will it fulfill its destiny and actually be read?

And then I remind myself that the book is not about me; it’s about Edward Hopper and the work he made in Vermont, paintings and drawings that have remained largely out of sight.  I have no doubt that others will find these Hoppers to be as surprising, interesting, and lovely as I do.  I also think that Edward and Jo would be pleased to see these particular “children”—those that were conceived and birthed in Vermont—reunited with their siblings and beautifully reproduced in the book.  In this I’ve been not parent but midwife, and that makes me proud.

It is an uncanny coincidence that exactly 42 years ago I was awaiting another arrival, one that was also delayed by three weeks.  Sorry, Mr. Hopper, but your release will always be a second to that of my son. Happy Birthday, Jason Kekoa Greene!

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