To show this felt presence, the undiscussed ghost, you let a part stand for some concrete whole, which stood in for the imagined whole we had once dreamed to approach, when the choir sang, Nearer. My God.
Consider your figure at a gas station, far from history, community, from any sense of connection to any other moment in time. There is no house, no other human being, not even a passing car in the frame. No trees live here, only this undefined scrub of the beyonds, leaning away. We can hardly see what he does.
Another, flanked by the shadows of buildings in a boomtown, far from any landscape, the hoe replaced by the rake. His action like a still, somehow the stuff of a life, but what is it?
Here is a particular American bleakness: the cold light, harsh angles, a mechanized blandness, a puritan stiffness of rigid self-containment, waxed fruit shining in a bowl, at the center of an empty room, beside the stylized body in space. We are far from her, and she is far from herself.
Inspired by (and with borrowed phrases from) Linda Nochlin’s description of the work of Edward Hopper in this article, “Edward Hopper and the Imagery of Alienation” (Art Journal, Summer 1981). Citing an observation by Brian O’Doherty, Nochlin highlights how “the alienation that viewers feel in Hopper’s pictures is not the simple alienation of human beings from each other, but of individuals from themselves.”