Celebrating bosses on their special day

Today, Oct. 16, is Boss’ Day, and since “Forward Friday” Waggings are usually about an artwork, a performance or something else to help you escape into the weekend, we’d thought you’d enjoy this painting by Nyack’s most famous artist, Edward Hopper.

The great American Realist influenced some of Hollywood’s finest filmmakers, from George Stevens (“Giant”) to Alfred Hitchcock (“Psycho.”) It’s not for nothing that “Hopperesque” is an adjective.

What made his work so haunting?  Hopper’s slices of American life – of “American pie,” as it were – capture the loneliness of modernism. Even when two or more people are interacting, as in his restaurant or hotel scenes, there’s a remove and a kind of deliberate artificiality in the backdrops, an airlessness to the settings. There are paintings you imagine jumping into. Not Hopper’s canvases. With them, it’s as if you’re watching a scene in a play – or from a passing elevated train, as in “Office at Night,” a 1940 oil on canvas now in the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Here Hopper gives us a moment glimpsed from a speeding train – but what a moment. A woman at a file cabinet. Her boss at his desk. It’s night, presumably in summer – judging from her short-sleeve dress and the shade blowing in from an open window — during the war years. People worked staggered shifts. Many of those people were women, who entered the workforce in numbers never seen before.

Still, the stereotypes persisted. The boss was a man, absorbed in his work at his desk. She does the filing. But there’s something about the way she’s turned toward him. Is she asking him a work-related question, or looking at him with longing?

The curve of her tight dress and the billowing shade speak of an erotic yearning, and it’s interesting that one of Hopper’s proposed titles for the work was “Confidentially Yours.”

Here Hopper takes what may be a confidential moment in passing and through the alchemy of art freezes it for us to wonder over forever.

Georgette Gouveia

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