Originally my husband and I saw this portrait in an A & W in Coquitlam back in the 80's. We later purchased a copy. Truthfully today I don't know why. I think it had to do with the colours more than the content. After all, deceased celebrities living inside an all night diner isn't really Funsville, although they seem to be having quite the good time. Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and the server, Elvis Presley, are the only souls in the picture that was painted by an existential hand.
Currently, the portrait resides in our home office and when I was sitting there drifting in and out of the consciousness of day-to-day matters, I found myself gazing up at it and thinking, "That really is quite eerie. The empty street behind them is a dark backdrop only illuminated by the lights from the cheap diner. No one else is in the picture." And then I thought, "The portrait is even more eerie given the fact that we live in a Post Covid world. A world where "The Diner" itself would be closed and empty with no one, not even Elvis to serve us.
Not knowing anything about the history of the painting, I did a little research.
Originally, a painting entitled Nighthawks was a 1942 oil on canvas created by a gentleman by the name of Edward Hopper. According to Wikipedia, this work was one of Hopper's best and is one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. Who knew? Apparently, not me. That painting sold for $3000 dollars to the Art Institute of Chicago. A lotta moola for 1942.
Gottfried's work was completed in 1984. It was done as a spoof on Hopper's Nighthawks where four nameless people exist within a "clean – well – lit – place" located in a Manhattan diner against the eerie backdrop. It was a clever little twist to put four celebrities in the picture instead. The original Nighthawks was titled to suggest the "safe place" amid the predatory "creatures" of the night. Criminals, perhaps?
Now let me see, here today, we can look at Gottfried's work and what do we see inside that same diner? After all, it would be closed.
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