Becoming an Art Critic

April 13th, 1978

In 1979, an 11th century Persian poem with 50,000 rhyming couplets, illuminated by tiny paintings in exquisite colors made from crushed jewels and insects’ wings, inspired my first story about art. For the next 20 years, I wrote, published, and broadcast hundreds of Stories about Art in Boston and beyond. This is how it all began.

Read the full article »

Claude Le Lorrain

April 1st, 1980

CLAUDE LE LORRAIN depicts the moment just before transfiguration — the moment just before women turn into goddesses, or girls turn into swans, or life turns into art. His light is dusk and twilight — the darkling light that washes the physical world in unearthly beauty and fills the heart with an intoxicating sense of possibility.

Read the full article »

Gabriele Munter: From Munich to Murnau

November 1st, 1980

A woman sits thinking, resting her head on her hand in a room filled with flowers and fruit. The room seems charged with meaning, filled with her extraordinary presence. For GABRIELE MUNTER, art was not about appearances, but about realities lying behind appearances. Abstraction was a way of seeing into the heart of things.

Read the full article »

Ingres 1780-1980

December 1st, 1980

For a twentieth-century audience brought up on abstraction, INGRES’s greatness, his fascination, lies in the abstract qualities of his line, its restless, obsessive movement across the page. Ingres’ line has power, grace, life; it’s brilliant, dramatic, neurotic, even perverse. He told his students, “Drawing is everything; it is all of Art.”

Read the full article »

Frances Hamilton: Books and Painted Stories

February 1st, 1981

FRANCES HAMILTON has refashioned much-loved images, memories, and dreamstransforming them into a fully re-imagined universe. It is this transformation – the serious, difficult task of art – that gives her work its power to enchant.

Read the full article »

Work on Paper

February 1st, 1981

Each rectangle is like a picture of a picture, moving through a series of transformations. The tremulous drawings are like jottings, hieroglyphics, messages in bottles, unreadable postcards, ideas coming into being, the first appearances of the not-yet-visible, the impalpable images taking form before our eyes.

Read the full article »

The Dial: Arts and Letters in the 1920s

April 1st, 1981

THE DIAL was a literary magazine that published T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, as well as reproductions of artworks collected by Schofield Thayer, a Henry Jamesian character who went abroad in search of old knowledge and new art.

Read the full article »

Flora Natapoff

October 1st, 1981

The surface of a FLORA NATAPOFF painting is a place where battles have been fought, cities and temples built up and brought down, and on which there has been a wrestling with angels. The means of expression are abstract – marks on paper and scraps of paper that must always hold their own. But the energy to work comes from looking at something that moves her.

Read the full article »

The Sketchbooks of Le Corbusier

December 1st, 1981

LE CORBUSIER created his own myth through the organic generation of forms. His genius constantly renewed itself, pulling new phenomena into the orbit of his thought and recreating them in the purified, monumental yet human forms of his architecture.

Read the full article »

Kush: Lost Kingdom of the Nile

December 1st, 1981

Red Sea shells and polished stones from the pyramid tomb of Queen Khensa — “great of charm, great of praise, possessor of grace, sweet of love” — and other treasures from KUSH, Lost Kingdom of the Nile. A meditation on Art, Time, and the ancient river.

Read the full article »

Sky Art Conference

January 1st, 1982

Artists and scientists. working in neon, laser, steam, smoke, video, pyrotechnics, film, inflated and flying sculpture, and other celestial navigations, celebrate the sky as a medium of expression, transmission, and space.

Read the full article »

Otto Piene

May 1st, 1982

As a very young man, OTTO PIENE saw the sky reflected in a sea at long last calm: “The feeling of being reborn has never left me.” Out of this rebirth came “a love for the sky, the desire to point at it, to show how beautiful it is, how it makes us live and feel alive.”

Read the full article »

The Drawings of Palladio

May 1st, 1982

“There is something divine about his talent, something comparable to the power of a great poet who, out of the worlds of truth and falsehood, creates a third whose borrowed existence enchants us.”

Read the full article »

New Wave Painting

June 1st, 1982

False masks of plastic beauty are among its moving targets. Desperate to survive the glissando of the word processor and the deadly lull of ordinary life, it rips to pieces the world’s fabric and its skin and puts it back together, obsessively recreating from scraps and scrawls and marks and images the objects of its desire and its rage.

Read the full article »

Anne Neely/Robert Ferrandini

April 1st, 1983

Yet there is exhilaration in the terror, the vertiginous fall. These speedy, violent fantasies of destruction and chaos are tenderly, beautifully described. The drawings in graphite and linseed oil – the oil used wonderfully as color – and the swirls of paint in eerie sea greens or fiery reds compose a balanced, painterly surface. The language of abstraction pulls us upward, as the images plunge us into the abyss.

Read the full article »

Michael Mazur

May 1st, 1983

In MICHAEL MAZUR’s hands, the Monotype was the perfect form to convey the multiplicity of life in the natural world. The clearest, most lucid flowers are surrounded by a paler aura of other flowers, other summers, other interpretations — a riot of reeds and flowers, organic growth, confusion, and decay. Revenants of images repeat like ghostly, half-remembered things.

Read the full article »

Henry Hobson Richardson

July 1st, 1983

HENRY HOBSON RICHARDSON used the colors of the earth like paint, and handled stones and trees with a giant’s strength and a sculptor’s grace. The poetry of his architecture makes the stones sing.

Read the full article »

More Than Drawing

March 1st, 1984

Drawings as a picture making, story telling, dream machine. Drawings that dance, stretch, yearn, arch, and glide across the page. The pleasures of looking emerge here not from what is observed but from how it is rendered; not the image but the artifice.

Read the full article »

Jean-Francois Millet: Seeds of Impressionism

June 1st, 1984

Jean-Francois MILLET saw a timeless beauty and sadness in life, in evenings dark and filled with color. “What I know of happiness is the quiet, the silence, that you can savor so deliciously, either in the forests, or in the fields,” he wrote.

Read the full article »

Renoir: A Lesson in Happiness

December 1st, 1984

“His hands were terribly deformed. Rheumatism had cracked the joints, bending the thumb toward the palm and the other fingers toward the wrist. Visitors who weren’t used to it couldn’t take their eyes off this mutilation. Their reaction, which they didn’t dare express, was: ‘It’s not possible. With those hands, he can’t paint these pictures. There’s a mystery!’ The mystery was Renoir himself.”

Read the full article »

Robert Ferrandini

December 1st, 1984

ROBERT FERRANDINI’s early work featured flying saucers and monsters, imagery drawn from a 1950’s childhood spent watching science-fiction movies like When Worlds Collide and The Thing. In his new paintings of imaginary landscapes and seascapes, he has come to some kind of terms with his past and is ready to move on. His spaceship has finally landed in a world of his own making.

Read the full article »

Animal as Metaphor

April 1st, 1985

Artists look at animals: the romantic fantasy animal, the primitive art animal, the hidden drives animal, the whimsical animal, the elemental animal, and other mythical beasts. As Walt Whitman wrote,
“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.”

Read the full article »

Radio Days

October 13th, 1985

Something magical happened when the microphone was turned on: all my doubts disappeared. I developed the habit of reading everything out loud, so my writing became more natural and tuned into my voice. I had a huge audience. For the first time in my life, people were listening to what I had to say, and I loved it.

Read the full article »

Images of the Mind

May 19th, 1986

Tao Chi was a prince who became a wandering Buddhist monk. His “Melancholy Thoughts on the Hsiao and Hsiang Rivers,” captures the mood of the end of autumn. A lonely fishing hut is half-hidden by a few sparse trees; a flock of wild geese flies over a river. The calligraphy echoes the flight of the birds and the quiver of the leaves. Without understanding a word, we can feel the poetry.

Read the full article »

John Udvardy

November 2nd, 1987

Sculptor JOHN UDVARDY sees the aesthetic possibilities in an old whittled paddle or a forked birch branch, and he knows how to make a curve from a green sapling. But most of all, he brings to his materials a feeling that every mark matters: every stick, every thread, every shell, every bone.

Read the full article »

Frances Hamilton: Pieces of Time

May 22nd, 1988

FRANCES HAMILTON’s art doesn’t come from the head; it comes from the hand and the heart. And that’s why a show of her work is always so rewarding. Her images stay with you, growing richer and deeper, as time goes by. They trigger memories. Major or minor, they touch a chord.

Read the full article »

Contemporary New England Furniture

June 1st, 1988
Judy McKie, Monkey Chair 1994

New England is now the center of an extraordinary flourishing of traditional crafts, especially furniture, because some very talented artists have turned to crafts as a way out of the cynical and cerebral “endgame” that so much contemporary art is playing today.

Read the full article »

Ritsuko Taho

December 14th, 1988

RITSUKO TAHO’s ever-changing installation is a spare but elegant invitation to participate in a work of art, both literally and metaphorically – by bringing more leaves, and by making a leap of imagination that transforms a heap of trash on a vacant lot into a poem in silver and brown.

Read the full article »

The Situationists

January 28th, 1989

The Situationists called for an art of excess, delirium, outrage, and social change. They believed that capitalism had turned contemporary life into a society of “spectacle” that its inhabitants could only passively watch and consume. Situationism would bring art out of the museums and into the streets, and sabotage the society of spectacle by creating situations in which people could turn their own lives into a creative experience.

Read the full article »

Jesseca Ferguson: Distant Views and Forgotten Dreams

February 1st, 1989

JESSECA FERGUSON’s constructions often contain old postcards, which seem to have been sent from places that have long since disappeared. Lost, ruined, or forgotten, they have left behind only pale and ghostly traces. Enshrined in little boxes, like the bones of saints in medieval reliquaries, her work celebrates the sometimes miraculous power of memory to transform the pain and complexity of real life into the stuff of dreams, and art.

Read the full article »

Anselm Kiefer

February 1st, 1989

Anselm Kiefer uses the language of modern art to rewrite the kind of grandiose nineteenth-century history painting that modern art rejected. He paints a raging elegy for the failure of reason and civilization to overcome the evil that is part of human nature. Yet for Kiefer, only the magic of art can build something beautiful out of the wreck of reason and the failure of history.

Read the full article »

Simon Schama’s CITIZENS

March 7th, 1989

CITIZENS, Simon Schama’s wonderful new book about the French Revolution, is especially fascinating to people who care about Art, because it is in many ways a book about the power of images to transform the world.

Read the full article »

Courtly Splendor: Twelve Centuries of Treasures from Japan

March 21st, 1989

The silvery glow of the moon and the flow of an underground river are reflected in sinuous calligraphy that swoons down a page from 12th century book of poems, strewn with shimmering silver roses: “True, I say nothing/ but the longing in my heart/ reaches out to you,/ secret as the constant flow of an underground river.”

Read the full article »

Roger Kizik

April 19th, 1989

ROGER KIZIK’s loopy, staccato line describes fishing boats with names like Frolic or Finast Kind, houses on the beach, the book he is reading or the tool he is using for fixing up his house or boat. The things in his drawings press in on him; they cluster around him, rich with hidden correspondences and secret messages, composing his life.

Read the full article »

Earth Day

May 7th, 1989

“It’s all coming from memory,” says ROBERT FERRANDINI. “From fairy tales, from childhood – from imagining. The way I see it, it’s the landscape of the mind. Lots of landscapes came to me from the movies. Fort Apache. Red River. Cheyenne Autumn. The Searchers. The idea of the search – which is what I do as a painter. I go into it. I search.”

Read the full article »

American Photography: 1839-1900

June 2nd, 1989

The people in the portraits present anxious faces to the camera; having your picture taken was a serious business. The camera was enormous, bulky, and expensive; the process was time-consuming and mysterious. Silvery and almost transparent, their delicate faces float on the shimmering silver plates like ghosts.

Read the full article »

Adolph von Menzel

July 11th, 1989

MENZEL’s drawings often show people and things as if they were turning into shadow, turning into smoke, dissolving into a cloud; just about to disappear. He said, “I early cultivated the habit of drawing things as though I were never to see them again.”

Read the full article »

Mary Cassatt

July 14th, 1989

In many of the prints, a woman’s face is partially obscured, either because of the way she has turned her head, or because she is holding something in front of her face ‑‑ a hand, a letter, a child. This conveys a sense of mystery, a feeling that there are secret meanings and moments of tragedy and what Virginia Woolf called “ecstasy” — hidden in the texture of a woman’s daily life.

Read the full article »

Imperial Taste

July 24th, 1989

In the 12th century, the Emperor Quianlong, who was a also a poet, said, “I want color”. He got color: exquisite pale blues and greens that seem to float on the surface of the bowls’ smooth surfaces like clouds; purple splashes called “the sky at dusk”; and a pale cobalt blue that seems distilled from a serene and cloudless summer sky.

Read the full article »

Ed Ruscha

September 8th, 1989

From the window of the studio ED RUSCHA had in the 1960’s, he could see a sign reading HOLLYWOOD. The big white letters are as flat an fake as an old, abandoned movie set, crumpled and peeling, with some of the letters falling down. But Ruscha’s many images of that sign make it a real sign, luminous and charged with light.

Read the full article »

American Screenprints

September 26th, 1989

Many of the most memorable images of the sixties were silkscreen prints: Andy Warhol’s soupcans, Marilyns, and Jackies, Roy Lichtensteins’s day-glo brushstrokes on Ben-Day dots, Sister Corita’s Flower Power messages, Robert Indiana’s LOVE, and Ed Ruscha’s dazzling 1966 Standard Station, radiant and gleaming in the California light.

Read the full article »

My Day Without Art

December 4th, 1989

Standing at the center of the spiral, I see the backs of all the chairs facing away from me, and feel a tremendous shock of loneliness and loss. Looking down from the balcony, I see that the chairs are the beginning of a spiral that could go on forever.

Read the full article »

Ruins at the Rose

December 8th, 1989

The 80’s began with big, shiny, self-confident paintings, but they are ending with of shreds and tatters, and anxious premonitions of a ruined world. They reminded me of the ending of William Gibson’s science fiction novel Count Zero, when a brilliant computer distills the few remaining fragments of a ruined civilization into exquisite little constructions. Or these lines from a Shakespeare sonnet; “bare, ruined choirs, where late the sweet bird sang”.

Read the full article »

Minor White

December 18th, 1989

MINOR WHITE’s photographs convey a sense that behind the visible world is another world — a world filled with meaning and magic. He was fascinated by photography’s ability to show what he called “things for what else they are.” He liked to quote the thirteenth-century German mystic Meister Eckhart: “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.”

Read the full article »

Yoko Ono

January 7th, 1990

Every viewer who chooses to participate will have a different experience. For me, it was a moving meditation on loss, change, and getting a second chance. As one of the characters in William Faulkner’s novel The Wild Palms says, “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.”

Read the full article »

Robert Whitman

January 14th, 1990

The canvas curled back like a white wave. The light turned red. Silhouettes of dancers moved through the white space like brushstrokes moving across a picture plane. The light turned white. The ceiling rippled and billowed. Silence. White light. I was taking notes, and the only sound I could hear was the sound of my own writing. It was over.

Read the full article »

Weston’s Weston: Portraits and Nudes

January 21st, 1990

WESTON’s portraits of friends and lovers are so intense that their souls seem to flicker through their sensitive faces and expressive hands. But Weston’s Nudes are seen in nameless fragments, as cool and smooth as marble. You see their bodies, but their faces are turned away.

Read the full article »

Sophie Calle

January 24th, 1990

SOPHIE CALLE borrows elements from detective novels, philosophical investigations, the film noir, the nouveau roman, documentary photography, love letters, art movies, B-movies, John Cage’s theories of randomness, and Joseph Beuys’s actions. She combines them in startling ways, as meditations on the mysterious spaces between self and other.

Read the full article »

The Cone Collection

January 28th, 1990

The CONE sisters collected art because they loved it and wanted to live with it. Their art collection became an emblem of their secret selves — a vision of the richness of their inner lives. Many of the images here show women the same expression on their face — a look of contentment, completeness, and self-fulfillment.

Read the full article »

The Grand Tour

January 28th, 1990

Light as a whisper, these elegant images, in the delicate style known as ROCOCO, convey the “sweetness of life” before the Revolution. Something of the warmth of the artist’s hand still lingers in all the little jabs and touches of chalk or ink that make up these delicious little 18th century drawings and prints.

Read the full article »

Textile Masterpieces

February 8th, 1990

Rugs and blankets, shrouds and shawls: textiles touched the lives of the people who lived with them. Slumbering in storerooms, rolled up and protected from light, these textile masterpieces have kept their vibrant colors and something of their human warmth. Now, unfurled, they look like magic carpets, poised to rise.

Read the full article »

The Starn Twins

February 18th, 1990

“It can be frightening, but that’s life,” said Doug. “Art is part of life,” said Mike. “It’s a real part – it’s the essence of life,” said Doug. “There’s no reason to make it perfect,” says Doug. “We want to show the physical nature,” said Mike. “The physical nature,” said Doug. “Of everything, but in particular, Art,” said Mike.

Read the full article »

Gyorgy Kepes

March 10th, 1990

GYORGY KEPES paints with a mixture of oil paint and sand, which gives his work a rough, earthy texture. He likes to tell the story of Antaeus, a hero who was the son of Mother Earth and could never be defeated as long as he touched the earth. Painting with sand is Kepes’s way of touching the earth.

Read the full article »

Lou Jones: Sojourner’s Daughters

March 23rd, 1990

LOU JONES’s portrait of a musician shows a beautiful old woman with strong hands and a clear, untroubled face. You can feel that she’s listening to music; there’s a visionary gleam in her eyes. Her portrait is juxtaposed with a faded daguerrotype of a 19th century singer known as the Black Swan.

Read the full article »

Farewell Concert

March 29th, 1990

I loved THE CONCERT, the beautiful little painting by VERMEER. Each time I looked at it, I saw something new. Now it’s gone. I try to remember every line, every shadow, every gleam of light, every sweet cadence of its silent music, but I can already feel it fading. As time goes by, it will darken and grow dim.

Read the full article »

David Salle/Imitation of Life

March 29th, 1990

One of DAVID SALLE’s favorite movies is Douglas Sirk’s IMITATION OF LIFE. In one scene, all the characters are jammed into a taxi, watching a funeral through the windows. In Salle’s paintings, too, many different things are happening at once, everything is crammed together, nothing seems finished, everything is seen in reflection or juxtaposition or through a filter or a pane of glass, and all of the contradictions are left unresolved.

Read the full article »

Gene Kelly

April 24th, 1990

GENE KELLY was a great dancer because his dancing seemed to be an overflow of his superb vitality — a natural extension of his personality. In all his movies, the transitions to dance are incredibly smooth, because even when he’s not dancing he’s thinking about dancing–his athletic body is flexed and limber– and he’s ready to roll, even on an empty set with 500,000 kilowatts of electric light mimicking stardust and a giant fan creating the sensation of a moonlight breeze.

Read the full article »

Monet in the ’90’s: The Series Paintings

April 30th, 1990

In painting after painting, the earth moves and the water swoons and the sky tumbles and all the blues and pinks and purples and reds and oranges dissolve into one. Earth and water come together, again and again, and explode in a symphony of light and color and air.

Read the full article »

Shaker Spirit Drawings

May 1st, 1990

In the nineteenth century, women in Shaker communities recorded their visions of heavenly gardens in “spirit” or “gift” drawings — simple gifts that speak to the heart. The words, written in tiny, spidery handwriting, are faded and almost illegible, but the little birds and hearts and flowers make the feelings clear.

Read the full article »

A California Dream

May 15th, 1990

“The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at the time; the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.”

Read the full article »

Robert Rauschenberg

May 22nd, 1990

Great art cheats death of its victory by transforming memory’s fragile fragments into something lasting, precious, and incorruptible. The ghostly white porch is a window to a world beyond flesh and paint – a world without sorrow or substance, color or weight. It is cool, pale, and white as a bone.

Read the full article »

Jean Arthur

May 30th, 1990

On film, JEAN ARTHUR is impulsive, but truthful ‑‑ true to the moment, while the moment lasts. She is chaste, but not prudish; she truly inhabits her small, athletic body, and she moves like a dancer with an easy natural voluptuousness. Her soft, gravelly voice is astonishly expressive. And some of her greatest lines aren’t words at all, but an astonishing repertoire of whimpers, sighs, sobs, giggles, and moans.

Read the full article »

Madame de Pompadour

June 1st, 1990

Madame de Pompadour always managed to look graceful, even in the most constricting clothes — corsets, bustles, and stays. Like Madonna, she created a Look that was supremely artificial — the powdered hair, the heavily applied make-up, the elaborate gowns. Like Madonna in her John-Paul Gaultier bustiers, La Pompadour in her negligée proudly displayed her sexuality as the source of her power.

Read the full article »

Censorship and the Arts

June 9th, 1990

It takes a lot of courage to be an artist. All kinds of things get in the way, but the thing that gets in the way the most is fear. That’s why the threat of censorship is so dangerous to Art. Art helps us to see the beautiful — and also to face the ugliness in life. Artists need to be free to show us the world as they see it — to tell it like it is.

Read the full article »

Judy Kensley McKie and Todd McKie

June 15th, 1990

In 1969, TODD and JUDY MCKIE painted banners with the signs of the Zodiac for Woodstock, which people pulled down to use as tents and blankets in the rain. Judy began making furniture in the early 70s to furnish their apartment. One day she impulsively carved two crouching figures into the arms of a butcherblock couch.

Read the full article »

Louis Cartier

June 22nd, 1990

LOUIS CARTIER used precious metals and jewels in a highly polished, sparkling, and yet almost casual way way — the way Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced. The shimmer of dozens of tiny diamonds on a cool platinum surface is the essence of sophistication –- like a Cole Porter song.

Read the full article »

Matt Mullican

July 6th, 1990

Being inside MATT MULLICAN’s installation is like being inside Matt Mullican’s mind – a dizzying experience. He’s constantly classifying and re-ordering everything. “It’s the first time I’ve arranged my meaning as objects in space depicting my meaning,” he says.

Read the full article »

Martin Puryear

July 9th, 1990

His falcons are elegant objects, yet they are also birds of prey. They are chained to a perch, dreaming of flight; perfectly at rest, yet poised to spread their wings and reach for the sky. His art conveys a sense of scraping away and discarding everything that is not essential – of travelling light, like a nomad, and soaring high, like a bird.

Read the full article »

Pierre Bonnard: Prints

September 1st, 1990

BONNARD’s art is an art of nuance and suggestion. His friend, the Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, wrote:
“You must have music first of all,
and for that a rhythm uneven is best,
vague in the air and soluble
with nothing heavy and nothing at rest.”

Read the full article »

Barbizon

October 1st, 1990

Barbizon was a place and a style — and also a feeling—a mood—a time of day — dusk, when the forms of things soften and the edges blur, and a kind of hush falls over the world. The earth is solemn, soft, and tender, like a bed—and sometimes like a grave.

Read the full article »

Chuck Holtzman

November 7th, 1990

His sculpture is like a very sophisticated game of musical chairs, where all the pieces come together for a moment of perfect, precarious balance. In his drawings, the charcoal keeps on dancing, long after the music stops.

Read the full article »

Linda Connor

November 7th, 1990

In LINDA CONNOR’s camera’s mystical eye, the world is filled with ancient sacred things. The same images repeat and recur in her body of work — spirals, veils, beams of light shining into a dark place, open doors, closed eyes, hands — but each time you see them, they mean something different. Each time you see them, they mean something more.

Read the full article »

A Tribute to Kojiro Tomita

November 8th, 1990

It is said that CHU TA never spoke — but he laughed, cried, waved his hands, and drank rice wine most expressively while he painted. Every single touch of Chu Ta’s brush means something. Every mark still matters. Hundreds of years later, you can still almost feel the movement of his hand — the bold drunken touch of his brush.

Read the full article »

The Unique Print

December 9th, 1990

In monotype, there is no fixed image on the printing surface. The artist paints or draws on a printing plate, makes changes, and prints again; the final proof is an accumulation of all the changes that have been made. Pale, faded images of past impressions often cling to monotypes like shadows; they are called “ghosts.”

Read the full article »

Love and Death

December 14th, 1990

The prayers were long, thin strips of paper or canvas, newsprint, photographs, or tinsel, embellished with drawings, paint, cut‑outs, dried roses, gold leaf, buttons, beads. Some were abstract; some had words; others had musical notations written on them. One prayer was made from a piece of old, paint‑splattered blue jeans, with a peace symbol and love beads.

Read the full article »

Ilya Kabakov/Soviet Conceptual Art

January 6th, 1991

When you look up, all those fragments convey a vertiginous sense of disintegration, and decay. But when you look down, everything is compressed onto a single shiny surface, and it’s beautiful. All that debris — all that waste and pain — is transformed into art.

Read the full article »

Robert Wilson’s Vision

January 17th, 1991

ROBERT WILSON’S VISION is structured like a journey — a journey that moves from morning to night — from white to black — from the past to the future — from birth to death. A journey that has no beginning and no end, but all takes place in a timeless, endless present.

Read the full article »

The Sound Artist: Hans Peter Kuhn

February 18th, 1991

“Sound art is more open and much closer to life than music. Music is a filtered experience. I’m not a composer. I don’t want the emotional view bound or directed in any one direction. I want to keep it open. I’m always trying things out. I hear something and I can pick it up and react in minutes. I’m interested in everything that makes a noise.”

Read the full article »

When We Dead Awaken

February 21st, 1991

A neon blue river of light crosses the stage on a diagonal. A black mountain looms beyond, pierced by a stark white waterfall. The sculptor sits brooding on a rocky throne; an egg-shaped stone is pierced with a spear. Two Irenes enter, and lie on the ground, like stones. “You have killed my soul,” they cry. “I am an artist!” cries the sculptor. One Irene sits on the rock, like a statue. “I was a human being too.”

Read the full article »

The Future of Art

March 1st, 1991

It is art that acknowledges the struggle of its own making, and conveys a sense of life as composed of fragments, where not everything is legible, and some things are irrevocably ruined or lost. The past haunts and enriches the present. Memory and imagination are intertwined. It is a mirror of the soul.

Read the full article »

Guercino

March 14th, 1991

GUERCINO drew like an angel—his gorgeous line curls across the page; his brush forms shadows that suggest a sense of the roundness and fullness of life. His best drawings are more than drawings—they are blessings, exquisite expressions of those moments when Art and Faith are one.

Read the full article »

Photography at the Boston Athenaeum

March 28th, 1991

The Boston Athenaeum, a Library with gracious high-ceilinged rooms adorned with columns and all kinds of Graeco-Roman architectural details, and filled with books and pictures, was built by 19th century Bostonians as a modern temple to Athena, Goddess of Wisdom.

Read the full article »

12th Annual Boston Drawing Show

April 13th, 1991

GERRY BERGSTEIN’s drawings show scribbles, scrawls, crossings-out, angry re-workings, markings of struggle and doubt. From this chaos of marks on paper emerge luminous little still lives, marked by the process of decay: visions of a world in flux, where everything is changing, growing, living, dying, and being reborn.

Read the full article »

Rosemarie Trockel

May 25th, 1991

“All these images are obliterated, defaced, lost. It’s about those marginal, mundane experiences that are for some reason significant to her. There are certain things about her work that are mysterious. They remain mysterious. And she treasures that mysteriousness.”

Read the full article »

Fragments of Antiquity

June 21st, 1991

All that we know of Greece has come to us in ruins–armless, headless, faded, fallen, broken, battered, lost in translation. What we have are fragments, fragments that have lost almost everything–except their poetry. But, generation after generation, that poetry has never lost its thrilling, visionary gleam.

Read the full article »

Dream Lovers

July 12th, 1991

When Berthe Morisot met Édouard Manet at the Louvre in 1867, he was 36 years old and married; she was ten years younger and still living with her parents at home. She was lively, intelligent, charming, talented. He was brilliant, difficult, fickle, famous, fascinating. She had long admired him from a distance; he immediately wanted to paint her portrait.

Read the full article »

Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun

July 19th, 1991
Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun

Madame Vigee-Lebrun revolutionized the portrait. She despised the powder and stiff clothes that women wore; she let their hair down, and draped them in soft, flowing shawls and painted them looking soft, dreamy, natural, alive. Her paintings helped to create a new look, a new style, a new attitude to life in pre-revolutionary Paris.

Read the full article »

John Singer Sargent’s EL JALEO

August 28th, 1991

In a dark, smoky room, a solitary dancer raises up her arm in a tense, ecstatic movement of inspiration; her other hand clutches the skirt of her dress — a flash of white light gleaming in the dark. You can almost hear the rhythmic weeping of the guitars; you can almost feel beating of the dancer’s tumultuous heart.

Read the full article »

Pleasures of Paris

September 6th, 1991

in a moment, the door will swing back shut, and the cafe will disappear, and then the street singer will vanish, into the street, into the night, never to be seen again. Only here, in this painting, where she is forever caught in the golden net of the Paris night at the moment when she stepped out through the swinging door, onto the street, and into our dreams.

Read the full article »

Busch-Reisinger Museum

September 14th, 1991

A crowded stage, and all the players on it. A king, wearing a crown, stabs himself in the heart. A woman looks at her reflection in a mirror, next to a statue of a Greek god. Modern men and women read the newspaper, talk, flirt, and fight with real knives. MAX BECKMANN’s The Actors aims to encompass all of Art and Life in thick, sure slashes of paint.

Read the full article »

Lazlo Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space Modulator

October 4th, 1991

“When the “light prop” was set in motion for the first time in a small mechanics shop in 1930, I felt like the sorcerer’s apprentice. The mobile was so startling in its coordinated motions and space articulations of light and shadow sequences that I almost believed in magic.”

Read the full article »

El Corazon Sangrante/The Bleeding Heart

November 1st, 1991

FRIDA KAHLO’s Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird shows her in a jungle with butterflies in her hair and a hummingbird dangling from a thorn necklace that pierces her neck, drawing small red drops of blood. “I never painted dreams,” she said. “I painted my own reality.”

Read the full article »

Paper Prayers/In the Spirit

December 19th, 1991

Many of the artists here are of a generation who rejected the conventional comforts of organized religion — and now they find themselves facing the inevitable mystery of death alone. They are re-inventing rituals that feel authentic to them and finding new ways to satisfy their spiritual needs. Paper Prayers has become one such contemporary healing ritual — a small congregation of artists gathered together In the Spirit.

Read the full article »

Bernd and Hilla Becher

December 21st, 1991

Bernd and Hilla Becher photographed blast furnaces, water towers, power stations, and other industrial structures, which they called “anonymous sculpture.” I thought of this show again when I first read W.G. Sebald’s books — mysterious, elusive, and strangely moving.

Read the full article »

Camille Paglia

May 4th, 1992

“Moment by moment, night flickers in the imagination, in eroticism, subverting our strivings for virtue and order, giving an uncanny aura to objects and persons, revealed to us by artists.” “The sea, Dionysian liquid nature, is the master image in Shakespeare’s plays. It is the wave-motion within Shakespearean speech which transfixes the audience even when we don’t understand a word of it.”

Read the full article »

Working Proof: Experimental Etching Studio

November 21st, 1992

Ten years ago, I spent a very happy summer working at Experimental Etching Studio, so I was delighted when the Boston Public Library invited me to help shape a conversation among a group of artists from this extraordinary printmaking cooperative.

Read the full article »

Goddesses, Empresses, and Femmes Fatales

October 31st, 1993

For the ancient Greeks, theater was a Dionysian ritual, and in the amphitheater of Pergamon, you can still feel that mythical intensity. The steep incline of the stone seats creates a tremendous focus of energy on the stage. When I stood at the center and sang, I felt my voice amplified, sound waves vibrating in the air.

Read the full article »

The Inferno of Dante

January 1st, 1995

Dante’s vision of Hell is filled with terrifying images of transformation, yet its ultimate horror is its changelessness — the unrepentant sinners whose punishment is to embody, forever, their sins. Centuries after its obscure Florentine villains have been forgotten, the poem still rings true as a drama of the inner life, because the heart of the poem is the hope that we can still be changed.

Read the full article »

Dialogue: John Wilson/ Joseph Norman

September 1st, 1995

JOHN WILSON is a classically trained artist whose life’s work has been a search for enduring, spiritually charged images of African-Americans. JOSEPH NORMAN weaves together all kinds of imagery into elaborate compositions that are elegant, yet full of feeling. “For both of these artists, art remains an important way to think about what it means to be human and to have an inner life.”

Read the full article »

Judy Kensley McKie

December 2nd, 1995

Working in bronze, that most ancient and enduring of materials, JUDY MCKIE’s work reveals the power of art to console and heal. Her Bird Fountain has the silent, soaring presence of great mourning monuments. “The water makes you feel calm and peaceful,” she says. “It’s nourishing. A life force.”

Read the full article »

Emma

January 1st, 1996

Hollywood has fallen in love with JANE AUSTEN. Her scripts feature snappy dialogue; her plots follow the classic formula of girl meets boy; girl loses boy; girl gets boy; her story lines move deliciously from chaos and confusion to harmony and delight. The latest is EMMA, played to perfection by GWYNETH PALTROW in Wedgwood colors, Empire dresses and pearl-drop earrings.

Read the full article »

Basquiat

January 2nd, 1996

BASQUIAT captures the artist’s yearning and anguish, moments of bliss and the sheer physical pleasure of making art. His later descent into drugs, loneliness, confusion and despair is truly tragic — you feel him pursued by the Furies of greed, racism, and disease, tracking him inexorably down.

Read the full article »

Julian Schnabel

January 10th, 1996

“The scene when BASQUIAT is painting — the Charlie Parker and Max Roach riff is from his record collection. It’s very heady at that moment…Success is when you’re making the work of art. The moment of perfect sonorous bliss.”

Read the full article »

Richard Linklater

February 1st, 1996

“It’s unfulfilled longing. It’s being young. Meet me at 20. I don’t know what I want to do. I kind of want to write. You want to be a artist, to express what’s going on in your life. It’s a way to lose yourself in your discontent. Otherwise you’d just go out and shoot and vandalize. Art is more internal.”

Read the full article »

Stephen McCauley

February 2nd, 1996

“I suppose I read so many biographies because I was trying to understand how people stumbled through their days and their failures and spun their miseries and despair into great art or pathbreaking science or profound enlightenment.”

Read the full article »

Winslow Homer

March 2nd, 1996

WINSLOW HOMER spent most of his life fishing and painting, reeling in the deep, unfathomable mystery of the sea. His pictures often show somebody gazing out to sea, concentrating on something no one else can see. Maybe it’s the light on the water, or the wind in the sails, or a boat coming home to shore, or just the flicker of a dream.

Read the full article »

Herman Melville

April 1st, 1996

“Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their out-reaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe.”

Read the full article »

Mark Morris/Orfeo

April 11th, 1996

“It begins with a funereal chorus in the antique style, with cornetto and trombones. And then Orpheus comes in, lamenting his lost love, and sings one single word. Eurydice. He sings it three times. He doesn’t say much, but he says everything he needs to say, and the third time he sings it, it sends chills up your spine.””

Read the full article »

Beth Soll / Richard Cornell

April 29th, 1996

Dancer Beth Soll and Composer Richard Cornell are working together on a dance inspired by a book by West African poet Amadou Hampate Ba. “It’s a long tale, an initiatory allegory, a triumph of knowledge over fortune and power,” says Cornell. “A quest for God and wisdom,” says Soll.

Read the full article »

The Fire of Hephaistos

May 1st, 1996

These ancient bronzes, which have long since lost their golden gleam, are still numinous fragments of a vanished world. One statue of young man was recently pulled out of a river; his pale sea-green body is scratched and scarred; but he is still a lovely apparition, reminding me of some lines from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”:
“Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange.”

Read the full article »

Object as Insight: Japanese Buddhist Art and Ritual

June 1st, 1996

Bodhisattvas with serene, all-embracing smiles; golden flower baskets for carrying lotus petals to purify a sacred space; ritual bronze chimes adorned with peacocks. “Each article is incredibly beautiful, but it’s only when all the articles come together, evoking the presence of the Buddha, that you can understand Buddhist art.”

Read the full article »

Florence Ladd

June 13th, 1996

“The sea is a metaphor for transformation, the possibility of crossing over, for becoming someone else, for change,” says FLORENCE LADD. “Every time Sarah crosses the sea, it changes her. I believe in the unconscious and the way the unconscious enriches our interpretations of life.”

Read the full article »

Larissa Ponomarenko

July 1st, 1996

Ballet is all artifice; but she makes even the Snow Queen’s dazzling, delicate swirls seem easy and natural. From a distance, she seems fragile, ethereal. But up close, you can see the muscles in her limbs, her graceful neck, her flexible spine. The years of dedication and discipline are sculpted onto her slender frame.

Read the full article »

Brain Opera

July 2nd, 1996

The beautiful, beloved voice of LORRAINE HUNT began to rise and spread out through the room, in sweet, sad layers of sound, accompanied by a visual chorus of flashing colored lights, magically transforming the empty, mechanical space into a few moments of unearthly beauty.

Read the full article »

Aretha Franklin/ Diana Ross

August 2nd, 1996

When I was young, ARETHA FRANKLIN and DIANA ROSS represented the two poles of women’s experience. Diana’s sweet, lyrical voice celebrated a woman’s capacity to abandon herself completely to love. Aretha’s “Respect” was the ultimate expression of a woman’s righteous anger and self-respect. Now I see them both as present-day embodiments of ancient Goddesses, projecting dazzling images of beauty, power, glamour, self-possession, and grace.

Read the full article »

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

September 12th, 1996

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is about a royal wedding, lovers lost in an enchanted forest, magic spells, and fairy sprites. But mostly it is about imagination. In the course of the play, as the characters move in and out of the world of dreams, certain words repeat over and over again: Fancy. Imagination. Dream. Vision. Transported. Transfigured. Transformed.

Read the full article »

The Eliminator

November 1st, 1996

THE ELIMINATOR begins as a cop thriller, then turns into a spy movie, then a horror movie with flesh-eating zombies, then a mythical epic, and finally achieves transcendence with an ironic evocation of William Butler Yeats’ great line of poetry, “A terrible beauty is born.”

Read the full article »

Christopher Hogwood

December 1st, 1996

CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD has stopped conducting in the traditional “stuffed shirt” tails and white tie; he now wears a black silk shirt. It gives him the air of an artist — or a monk. The Maestro’s new clothes are a metaphor for his approach to music: not a dusty, lifeless tradition, but something authentic, full of meaning, and alive.

Read the full article »

Helen Pond and Herbert Senn

December 1st, 1996

Boston Ballet’s new Nutcracker sets are the work of a designing couple, Helen Pond and Herbert Senn, who live in a Gothic house in Yarmouthport which they have fully restored with Gothic carving, painted ceilings and “lots and lots of quadrifoils,” says Herbert. “We designed the house and the Nutcracker at the same time. Nutcracker is my life.”

Read the full article »

Boston Baroque: Abduction from the Seraglio

May 21st, 1998

Mozart’s early opera, ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO starts out light and comic, gradually grows deeper, more melodic, and more profound, and ends in perfect harmony. He wrote in 1781, at the age of 25, bringing together elements of high art and melodrama into a new form that transcends them both. “It was a breakthough for Mozart,” says Martin Pearlman, conductor and director of the Boston Baroque.

Read the full article »

Paula Josa-Jones

August 1st, 1998

“It’s as if they were taking a journey through a landscape and their eyes were caught by something — a memory, or the fragment of a memory, or the memory of a past life — and that pulls them into the movement,” says PAULA JOSA-JONES of her new dance, GHOSTDANCE.

Read the full article »

John Singer Sargent

June 29th, 1999

He was the preeminent portrait painter of his day, and he gave it all up to paint landscapes. His private life is a mystery. His brushwork is still dazzling. JOHN SINGER SARGENT seems to have walked out of the pages of a novel by Henry James, who wrote of him: “Yes, I have always thought of Sargent as a great painter. He would be greater still if he had done one or two little things he hasn’t—but he will do.”

Read the full article »

Vanity Fair

May 18th, 2004

Thackeray endows Rebecca Sharp — “that artful little minx — with all the qualities which make his own writing so delightful. He portrays Rebecca as an artist — the lost, brilliant child of a singer and a painter, singing and dancing, scheming and dreaming her way though life.

Read the full article »

Tony Harrison/Fram

September 30th, 2008

Fram does rise up from the frozen world, uncrushed. The ship, the play, the “craft,” which is both the ship and poetry, sails on, forward, into the sacred space, where inspiration and despair—the song and the scream—can come together, and embrace.

Read the full article »

Hans Wegner/ The Bear Chair

October 20th, 2008

Hans Wegner, the legendary Danish furniture-maker, always worked with natural materials like wood and wool, and his furniture reflects both the natural world and abstract art; you can see traces of Brancusi and Picasso in it, as well as animals and trees. He designed more than five hundred chairs during his long and illustrious career. One of them belongs to me.

Read the full article »

Meryl at the Rose

April 28th, 2009

Hundreds of people came to MERYL BRATER’s Memorial Exhibition at the Rose Art Museum. We all believed that Meryl would live on at the Rose, and that many generations to come would have the chance to know her through her art. To close the museum now would be a terrible blow to everyone who loved her – to everyone who trusted their treasure to the Rose.

Read the full article »

Postscript

May 15th, 2011

Thanks to all the Artists and Friends who inspired me along the Way.

Read the full article »