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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.

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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.

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

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