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The sliver of picture above is called Automat, by Edward Hopper, painted in 1927. If I had to pick a favorite painting ever, this would be it. It lives in the Des Moines Art Museum, a fact I didn’t know until I visited it. What a wonderful surprise to suddenly find your favorite painting hanging before you! Here’s the full effect:

There are numerous reasons I like this painting. It’s very typical of Hopper’s work: realistic, simple, a bit haunting, and hinting at other things. Like there’s a story behind it.  I love the composition of her sitting in the corner. All the color in the painting is crowded around her, and the rest of it is dark, even a bit bleak. She looks dressed up. She has one glove on and one glove off, like she just came in to sit down for a moment.
Who is this girl? Is she waiting for someone, or is she all alone? Did she just leave a party? Did someone break up with her? To me, it always seemed like she is waiting. She is a little melancholy, a little isolated. She’s alone with her thoughts, staring into her cup. Maybe I like it because I’ve identified with that isolated feeling in the past. Everyone has.
Isolation in the city is one of Hopper’s major themes. While most other painters in his era were lauding the city as a cultural ideal, Hopper showed the painful loneliness inherent of being in a crowd of people.
It’s nice to be lonely sometimes. Too often I think of myself as an extrovert, someone who loves being social, but I forget that my personality barely crosses the intro/extro line. If I focus too much on extroversion, I get exhausted. I need some isolation, some alone-with-my-thoughts time every so often. That’s why the painting appeals to me.
But mostly, I really like her hat.
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