By Gail McCarthy
---- — The Cape Ann Museum is opening “Hopper Redux: Gail Albert Halaban Photographs,” a new major, special exhibition of images by the New York-based photographer.
Halaban is no stranger to Gloucester. Her father, Morris Albert, grew up on Washington Street near the Joan of Arc statue, and she spent summers here.
In the summer of 1923, American painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967) returned to Gloucester to paint. He stood at the end of Wonson Street on Rocky Neck where he was captivated by a Victorian house. The 1923 watercolor that resulted, “The Mansard Roof,” put the painter on the radar of the art world of the early 20th century. That year he also met his future wife and muse, fellow artist Josephine Nivison. They married the following summer, and spent their honeymoon in Gloucester, both painting watercolors.
Works by Hopper on auction sell for many, many millions of dollars.
Hopper’s time in Gloucester intrigued Halaban, and she credits that intrigue as part of the inspiration for the work on exhibit in “Hopper Redux.”
But it was the conversations as an adult she had with her father that sparked her interest in learning more about Hopper’s experience in Gloucester, and later provided her inspiration.
“We talked about how Hopper painted in my dad’s neighborhood, and we were talking about all the great painters who walked the same streets as he had,” said Halaban. “My father grew up around the corner from several Hopper houses.”
Following the tradition of “art spotting,” where one seeks to stand in the same spot of a famous painting, Halaban set out to create a fresh look at the Gloucester houses made famous in Hopper’s paintings.
“I tried to be as close to the exact spot where he stood when he painted. The thing that I feel I did different was that I tried not to make a literal copy of the painting, but sought to combine my memories and observations and imagination to make something distinctly my own,” she said.
The Cape Ann Museum owns a drawing of Hopper’s “Cemetery in Gloucester,” and so Halaban was asked to photograph that site, the result of which is part of the show. The cemetery is Oak Hill Cemetery, located off of Poplar Street.
“To get the right angle, I had to stand in the middle of the street as traffic was whizzing by,” she said. That raised concerns with neighbors Barbara Gueth and Janet Lemnah who came out to assist her.
“Overall, there were so many local people who helped me,” Halaban said. “There is a tradition there of art spotting so it was fun to be part of that tradition.”
Halaban is also part of the extended Bell family in Gloucester. She has many cousins in that family because her grandmother, Bea Albert, was a Bell until she married.
Now Halaban is ready to share her work over the past five years with the public.
Earlier photographic series by the artist include “About Thirty,” “This Stage of Motherhood” and “Out My Window,” which is the subject of a September 2012 volume from powerHouse Books.
Halaban will present a lecture on her work at the Cape Ann Museum on Aug. 15. In addition, the museum will offer “Hopper Houses” walking tours throughout the exhibition period. The show runs through Sept. 29. For more information, visit www.capeannmuseum.org.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go What: Opening reception for the Cape Ann Museum's new exhibition, "Hopper Redux: Gail Albert Halaban Photographs." When: 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 29. Where: Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St., Gloucester. How much: Reception is free to the public.