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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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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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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