The Art New England Years, 1980 ‑1989

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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