We had a very important event to go to. The address was 100 Lyme St, Old Lyme, Connecticut. According to our search, the journey by car would be 2hrs14min, from our place in New York.
Since I was a little girl, it happens to me that images of paintings, movies or books hunt me. My mom used to call me “absent minded” or “wanderer” because of that, as a matter of fact she still does.
Our car was equipped with GPS, which limited my copilot responsibilities to look outside the window and snack on the cookies we brought along for the ride. So it was inevitable for Hopper and Baudelaire to seize my mind.
It wasn’t by chance really, we had been the day before at the Whitney Museum and seen many of Edward’s Hopper pictures there. I also had read recently Baudelaire’s biography, and Hopper was a big fan of him. It’s Baudelaire’s poetry who inspired the american painter to take six moths per year for road trips around USA looking for scenes he would later paint.
On the other hand, Baudelaire*, was a frustrated traveler, you can tell it from his poems. He was never comfortable living in France, any other place in the world was more appealing to him since he was a child. He dreamt of leaving his country and moving to another distant place, somewhere far away so it wouldn’t remind him of his daily routines.
“Carriage, take me away with you! Ship, steal me away from here!
Take me far, far away. Here the mud is made of our tears!”
As an artist, Hopper was always painting about traveling related situations and capturing the state of mind that travelers are usually in. His characters embody hope and sadness at the same time. His paintings perceive and reflect the idea that when people are in transit become both vulnerable and clearer. As if transitions helped us gain perspective. Don’t you feel airports and train stations have a particular energy?
My wandering was interrupted for a little while, when we stopped for gas. Since I wasn’t hungry, I stayed in the car gazing trough the window at the gas station and the people having lunch inside. The gas station was stunning, pure Americana style, totally worthy of an Ed Ruscha or Hopper painting. I took a pic.
I went inside the service plaza, and each corner seemed like a painting. Almost 100 years later, and in another century, the face expressions of the travelers where still there. At one table a lady, with a huge Coca Cola, was bitting the straw while playing distracted with her car keys, I tried to think where was she headed, was she happy to go there or had she just had a goodbye filled with sorrow. The lightly blurred faces that Hopper painted –quite critiziced– where so revealing of the feelings of lonelyness, anxiety and excitement of travelers, and they were there right in front of me, having Mc Donalds for lunch. Four tables behind, was a young man, dressed with what seemed like a DHL uniform. I thought that being on the road was probably his way of life. He probably drove many hours a day and this was his recess. I wasn’t able to make out from his face his state of mind, maybe he was tired. Maybe hopeful. All of them deserved a painting from Hoppe. I felt so sorry to not have any of his talent! I kept the images in my mind, so I could describe them to you to the best of my abilities.
I took a few more pictures, trying to portray with them at least a bit of the inspiration I received from that genious.
We resumed our journey and the gas station was left behind, so where Hopper, Ruscha and Baudelaire. We didn’t know it then, but in Old Lyme was waiting for us Pablo Neruda.
*Now that I think about it, Flaubert was also a renegade, he hated living in France and everything french… Was there a histeria epidemic in France during the XIX century or just coincidence?