A walk down Nicollet Mall
in downtown Minneapolis
on any sunny afternoon
will yield many people like the woman shown in “Cafe Sitter” by Jack Levine
. These hipster coffee shop
frequenters laze their days away before lattes
and fresh copies of The City Pages
, making gossip
and turning heads on the street. Cafe sitters are the faux artistic
, the modern linguists
(that is, the originators of Jive
)-the ultimate urbanites
. Some people in our society consider these cafe sitters the quintessential cool, at the heart of fashion and in-the-know, but I see the sitters as simple folk just like the ‘bourgeois’
that they so desperately need to impress. Indeed, they themselves are ordinary people.
Jack Levine’s “Cafe Sitter” is the portrait of a typical scenster. She, all pouty-faced and proud, sits alone at one of these plain circular bistro tables so common in modern cafes. Designer sunglasses, shear dress (which Levine suggests through quick, non-committing lines), and salon-tousled hair (the messy look!) all go to show that this sitter means to catch your eye. The only prop absent from this representation of the average cafe goer is the fancy Turkish clove cigarette, clenched delicately between the index and middle fingers. Inclusion of this artifact would make it difficult to differentiate between cafe sitter and high-class fifties movie star!(Oohs, ahhs. The sound of a popping flashbulb...)
Levine, when sketching “Cafe Sitter”, seems to have focused his skill on these features of the sitter that identify her. Careful attention is paid to the mouth, for example, where her playful pout curls to reveal the youthful sexiness that is so essential to the scenster look. Also impressive is Levine’s portrayal of the sitters horn-rimmed sunglasses, which beg the question, “Retro chic or retro geek?” (these glasses, by the way, are gaining in popularity among the cofee-shop-frequenting types, who like to walk the line between camp and cool).
Less attention, however, is spent on the dress and hair of the sitter. Perhaps this reflects the changing personalities of the fashion industry that the sitter must keep up with-or perhaps it simply adds to the wistful, nonchalant portrayal of the sitter’s attitude...
The cafe sitter’s attitude is further reflected through her pose. She is draped over the bistro table, arms akimbo with elbows on the table in a blatant disregard for modern manners. This is certainly a free-spirited girl, or maybe just a spoilt brat unfamiliar with proper posture. Either way, the pose is typical of modern jaded youth.
And that it is typical is my point. Here is a sketch of a girl we have all seen. The trendsetter, the drama queen, the pop-culture coffee shop scenster. She utilizes all of the identifying qualities of an uptown girl, and Levine shows her in her element.