One Night In An Edward Hopper Hotel Room? It's Less Lonely Than You Might Think It isn't hard to imagine yourself inside a Hopper painting (say, having a coffee at a late-night diner) and now, for $150 a night, you can sleep in a re-creation of his 1957 work, Western Motel.
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1 Night In An Edward Hopper Hotel Room? It's Less Lonely Than You Might Think

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1 Night In An Edward Hopper Hotel Room? It's Less Lonely Than You Might Think

1 Night In An Edward Hopper Hotel Room? It's Less Lonely Than You Might Think

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Fans jam museums when an Edward Hopper show is on. He painted people drinking coffee in a late-night diner, women at windows leaning into the sunshine, scenes where the light and shadow are everything. "Edward Hopper And The American Hotel" is an exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and it includes a 3D version of one of Hopper's best-known scenes, which is a hotel room. NPR's Susan Stamberg had a chance to check in for the night.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: For 150 bucks, you can sleep in that Hopper reproduction - just you in your jammies in a gallery and outside in the hall, a guard.

I've got to say, it feels a little funny getting undressed in a museum. There's plenty of nudes on the walls, but you don't expect to find yourself one in a room.

LEO MAZOW: This is a more or less facsimile of Edward Hopper's 1957 masterpiece Western Motel.

STAMBERG: To be clear, Leo Mazow was not in the room with me, but the curator did describe the painting my room recreated. Western Motel - big picture window overlooking mesas, a green Buick parked outside, that thin Hopper light streaming in, two leather suitcases, upholstered armchair, big bed with a burgundy spread. Sitting on a corner of the bed, a guest - not me. She's blond and fully clothed. Behind her...

MAZOW: A bedside table on which is a mid-century modern clock and a gooseneck lamp.

STAMBERG: And what's happening with her? No idea. She is just sitting there. Hopper doesn't do narratives.

MAZOW: Unless we admit that waiting has a storyline all of its own.

STAMBERG: My storyline is to spend the night in this room alone in a gallery.

It feels like a firm bed. So far, so good.

No bathroom in the painting, so I have to go out into the museum to do my ablutions.

Floss time.

Back across into the painting and waiting to sleep - waiting. Hopper's people in various hotel rooms, dressed and undressed, they're all waiting for something. In a 1944 canvas Morning In A City, a nude redhead - all his models were his wife Josephine, at her insistence - the woman stands by her bed holding something white - a towel? a blouse? - and looking out the window.

MAZOW: She isn't sure what she's doing. She's pondering her next move.

STAMBERG: In another hotel room from 1931, a semi-dressed woman sits on her bed. Hey, it's the same bed I slept in. And there's the same luggage. She's reading a train schedule.

MAZOW: We see moments of pause - those in-betweens that interest us. It's isolation. It's alienation. But it's also coming to a pause when there's really nowhere to go and nothing to do.

STAMBERG: Hopper's people, in rooms that look antiseptic but could smell of cigars, indeed seem alienated. But he once said, I think the loneliness thing is overdone. Here's an excerpt from an interview he gave in 1961. Scratchy old tape - so years ago, I translated it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EDWARD HOPPER: Those are the words of critics. And...

STAMBERG: Those are the words of critics, Hopper said. He can't always agree with them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOPPER: ...You know? It may be true, or it may not be true.

STAMBERG: It may or may not be true. It's how the viewer looks on the pictures.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOPPER: ...How the viewer looks on the pictures...

STAMBERG: What he sees in them, what they really are.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOPPER: What they really are.

STAMBERG: Could that be?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HOPPER: Could that be?

STAMBERG: Could it? Could it?

MAZOW: I guess I'm interested in what kind of alienation and isolation it is.

STAMBERG: Again, curator Leo Mazow.

MAZOW: Maybe we should rethink these paintings. Maybe alienation and isolation, wonderful modernist buzzwords as they are - and useful ones - maybe they don't always carry a negative connotation.

STAMBERG: Maybe they're moments to collect yourself, pull yourself together. I must say, I woke up the next morning in the Hopper Room at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond expecting to feel lonely. Instead, I'd had a good night's sleep, felt rested and ready to leave the manufactured Western Motel room to go around the corner and look at the painted one and others in new ways.

I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.

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