Cats Hate Water
Philip Koch. Truro Afternoon, oil on canvas, 28 x 42 inches, 2021
Here's one of my new paintings. It's based on a small oil I painted on location in Edward Hopper’s studio in Truro, MA. The view is of the corner of the studio’s painting room that inspired Hopper’s oil Rooms by the Sea from 1951 (now at Yale University Art Gallery).
I have a long history of painting this corner of this room.
It really started when I was much younger. Idly sunning myself on a lounge chair on the patio of my home, I was flipping through my parents’ copy of Time magazine. I was a typically preoccupied teenager, uninvolved with art. Coming across a photo of Hopper’s Rooms by the Sea I did a double take.
The painting powerfully evoked the feeling one has of gazing out at an expanse of open water. The vast waters of Lake Ontario were a big part of my life (since I was 3 1/2 we had lived on its shore, first in a rental house and then moving (on my 4th birthday no less) into our lakeshore home in Webster, NY where I lived until I was 18). The image in the magazine struck a chord in me. I thought “Now THAT’S a painting!”
Discovering that painting started the ball rolling towards my decision to become a painter. When I was 18 and in my first semester at Oberlin College the Art History 101 I was taking persuaded me to switch my major from Sociology to Studio Art.
Immediately it was a good fit.
My first two years as an art major I splashed away with acrylic paints turning out large colorful abstractions. Then in the Spring semester of my Sophomore year I found images in Oberlin’s Art Library of, guess who, Edward Hopper's paintings of bright sunlight and cast shadows so like what I’d seen years before. On some level I knew these were feelings I needed to pursue and changed course to become a realist painter.
In 1983 I had the good fortune to begin a long series of informal “residencies” in the Hopper studio. Standing right in front of the doorway that prompted Rooms by the Sea felt like a celebration of the long course my own paintings had taken me up to that point. I’ve made a number of paintings of it- some highly accurate renditions of the actual architecture, others using the doorway more as a springboard for some playful invention.
Cats hate water.
In Truro Afternoon a cat has hopped on the bed to sun himself. Yet he too stares out at an unseen window, perhaps mesmerized by the rhythm of the waves. At the right the sea reminds us of adventure, exploring, perhaps of things and places that are deep and unknowable. A sun filled bedroom is all about domesticity, comfort and safety. Aren't these opposing needs so real in all of us? This painting suggests these feelings needn't be at war with each other- that things can be moved to a place of resolve and balance.