Friday, July 21, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ From Hopper House to McMansions to Rapunzel & Pringles

The Sun will soon leave zodiac sign Cancer, for this year, but before it does I notice there'll be an important American painter's birthday anniversary tomorrow, that of Edward Hopper. I've blogged about this artist on three past occasions: HERE, HERE and HERE, between 2007 and 2013. Today I'm drawing attention, again, to just one of his works:

The House by the Railroad (1925)

Edward Hirsch wrote a poem about that painting, it begins:

The House by the Railroad

Out here in the exact middle of the day,
This strange, gawky house has the expression
Of someone being stared at, someone holding
His breath underwater, hushed and expectant;

This house is ashamed of itself, ashamed
Of its fantastic mansard rooftop
And its pseudo-Gothic porch, ashamed
of its shoulders and large, awkward hands......

Full poem can be read HERE

It ends:

...This man will paint other abandoned mansions,
And faded cafeteria windows, and poorly lettered
Storefronts on the edges of small towns.
Always they will have this same expression,

The utterly naked look of someone
Being stared at, someone American and gawky.
Someone who is about to be left alone
Again, and can no longer stand it.

I was reminded of this particular Hopper painting after spending much time nodding and chuckling though a website/blog McMansion Hell. There's a section devoted to the 50 States of McMansion Hell, where the author, Kate Wagner, has begun taking readers through the architectural horrors and decor mis-demeanors of high-priced modern mansions in each US state. There are also sections devoted to architecture, McMansions 101, history, as well as some of general arty-farty type interest. A visit is highly recommended. From the home page, to access heading links to all the good stuff available, just click on the three little lines in the very top left-hand corner of the screen.

Edward Hopper's House by the Railroad wasn't, of course, a McMansion, but many of today's over-priced, piles, filled with pretensions to opulence and historical relevance do owe a lot to similar styles from decades past - it's just that they their designers didn't know when to stop - or where!

I've wondered if, in decades long past, builders used a common catalogue of styles available as "sets" - a bit like a Lego set. The customer would pick one from the "menu" and could also order from a list of "sides" - as happens in restaurants. Perhaps the same things happen today, in the case of McMansions, but menus now have a wider variety of sides, and McMansion customers have bigger appetites and fatter wallets.
 "Rapunzel Towers"

 McMansion "Pringle Can of Shame"
As we drive around, just through some of our neighbouring "fly-over" states, we often spy much older houses, either left unoccupied, or currently owned by people of fairly modest means, sporting what we've come to call "Rapunzel Towers"; Ms Wagner calls these "Pringles Cans of Shame". Kansans, especially, during past decades, seem to have had a liking for this "side" of architectural kitsch.

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