The Boston Magazine Years, 1995-1999

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.””

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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