Monday, March 3, 2008

The Night of the Living Diner

I'd say that pretty much anyone who is familiar with popular culture as seen the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawks. You may not know it by name, but the glassed-in corner diner seems to be universally recognized the classic nighttime diner scene.

While its location is never indicated in the painting, I'm always reminded of Chicago (even though Hopper was inspired by a long since demolished diner in Greenwich Village in New York). I find myself reminded of movies that contain similar diner-inspired scenes - movies that were set in Chicago - and they always bring me back to Hopper's painting, which is elegant in its straight lines and starkly contrasting light & dark colors. Movies like The Sting or Dick Tracy.

It's funny - Hopper's work speaks of the loneliness and solitude that city life brings to the millions of denizens that happen to live and work near each other. Late at night, across the counter from each other, even though they're sharing a meal, these people are alone. And to me, this is the absolute antithesis of my own diner experiences. I love to go with people, to share a meal, to swap stories, and to just live. Even if I happen to be alone on a stool at the counter, it's fun chatting with the cook or the waitress, to get a sense as to what makes them tick and what they see on an average day.

A friend recently sent me a Chicago Tribune article called Diners with a side of noir, in which the author seeks to recreate the perfect Hopperesque scene late at night in Chicago diners. There's a video that accompanies the article, so it's worth the click. It also mentions a Hopper retrospective that's going on at the Art Institute of Chicago, where Nighthawks permanently resides.

If you can't get there, maybe you can just enjoy the blue plate special at your favorite diner and this little visual homage:


Joe C said...

I did follow the link to the Chicago Tribune article and the video. What I found odd about it was that the narrator had a wicked Boston accent. :)

eric zaetsch said...

The use of the red window frame to echo a theme?