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    Theater Royalty, Helen Mirren brings Queen Elizabeth II to Broadway in ‘The Audience’

    Edward Rubin

    Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in Broadway production of ‘The Audience.’ All photos: Joan Marcus

    Mary-Louise Parker and Bruce Willis hosted the nomination announcement for the 2015 Tony Awards. Given the fascination with two of the world’s most popular ‘royals,’ Queen Elizabeth ll and Dame Helen Mirren, England’s answer to our own Meryl Streep—albeit with a lot more sex appeal oozing from every pore—Mirren was nominated for a Tony in the Best Actress category for her performance as Queen Elizabeth in ‘The Audience.’ xxxxxx (more…)

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    Picturing the Universe: The Contemporary Paintings of Ejay Weiss

    David S. Rubin

    Ejay Weiss, ‘Aquarium #11, The Reef’ (2013-14), mixed media, 55 1/2 x 44 1/4 x 5″

    As a high school student, Ejay Weiss did not excel in physics classes because he found the mathematical formulas that filled his textbooks to be abstract and meaningless. Yet, all his life, Weiss has been fascinated by the kinds of questions that physicists seek to answer: How did the universe get here? How does it work? How does one event impact another? For Weiss, speculative answers to such questions needed to be identified using a different language than the one that was being taught. As a practicing artist for more than fifty years, he has pursued investigations that are quite analogous to those of a physicist, but he has relied more on a creative process than a measured one, a process that expresses itself through visual thinking rather than numerical calculation or complex notation. Additionally, his investigations evidence the possibility for a peaceful coexistence between scientific and spiritual explanations. xxxxxx (more…)

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    In the Realm of Spectacle and Dreams: 19th c. Artists and Writers Shape a New America

    Richard Friswell

    639 coverCurator’s Note: This virtual gallery ‘exhibition’ will examine the self-image of America during the Gilded Age, Mark Twain’s derisive term for a period of U.S. industrial and cultural expansion during the last quarter of the 19th century. It offered rich material for some of America’s best-known artists and writers. This exhibition focuses specifically on the cities of the Northeast and their rural environs. The art selected for inclusion in not intended to illustrate the text in any direct or literal sense; any more than the narrative excerpts are meant to be descriptive of the meaning or intent of any painting. Rather, they combine to provide a contemporaneous view of the painters’ visible world and writers’ literary sphere. The pairing of ‘narrative’ painting with a ‘painterly’ narrative yields a multi-sensory experience for the virtual gallery visitor which will hopefully prove larger than the sum of its parts.

    Part I of this ‘exhibition will focus on the late 19th c. New England city. Readers may want to familiarize themselves with the text of William Howell’s The Rise of Silas Latham (1885). In it, the author offer a rich and colorful narrative ‘picture’ of city life in Boston at the turn of the century. His ‘naturalistic’ style of story-telling set the stage for a new brand of novel—one in which everyday events and the interior lives of his characters are central—clearly the way for a new form of ‘modern’ literature in the next century. xxxxxx (more…)

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    At Hartford’s Atheneum: ‘Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008’

    Richard Friswell

    athen LunaParkEntrancelg“The best show is the people themselves.” –Reginald Marsh

    The lights of Coney Island glowed on the horizon like a distant inferno, visible from miles at sea. A modern marvel of the Industrial Age, thousands flocked from the metropolis of New York to this beach-side park to witness the marvel of electricity, a crush of humanity drawn to its magical power like moths to a flame. The trap was cleverly set by its designers, combining the timeless allure of the beach with a garish display of carnival rides and circus-like freak show attractions, pushing the limits of human form and abilities. Towering edifices outlined against the night sky with rows of incandescent light bulbs too numerous to count served as a lure for the curious and seasoned visitor, alike. An acres-long boardwalk traced a line between the natural beauty of the sea and manmade wonders of the park. An ‘island’ in name only, the appellation itself—Coney Island—represented more a state of mind, free from life’s cares, than the physical reality of a narrow strip of real estate tucked along the margins of a sprawling cityscape. xxxxxx (more…)

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    Editor’s Letter: April, 2015

    Richard Friswell

    033“A work of art is the trace of a magnificent struggle.” ~Robert Henri


    Left: Henri Matisse, ‘Seated Woman’ (1935), Private collection

    Venus Rising

    The planet Venus hangs low in early spring air, gently pulsating in a jewel-toned, cobalt evening sky. A narrow band of deep orange and crimson still grips the horizon behind the distant tree line, reluctant to forfeit another day’s warming trend—harbinger of more sultry days to come. Almost too brilliant to be taken for a celestial form, this spherical object tricks the eye into believing it is an aircraft’s light, suspended in a holding pattern awaiting further instructions. Each night, Venus is joined on a near-collision course by the waxing or waning moon. Yet, the Old Man passes harmlessly and without fail on its course to the other side of the world. All this, in spite of the dim red glow of nearby planet Mars, a playful traffic light in the vastness of galactic space, appearing to signal “Stop!” This spectacle is not only beautiful, but awe-inspiring. One can easily imagine the ancients observing similar events high overhead, as they imparted meaning and message to these mystical planetary migrations. xxxxxx (more…)

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    ‘Pianist of Willesden Lane’: the Passion of Lisa Jura

    Geary Danihy

    Mona Golabek as her mother, Lisa Jura in ‘The Pianist of Willesden Lane’ at Hartford Stage.

    What if Anne Frank had lived, if she had had a daughter, and that daughter decided to tell her mother’s story — the story of a young girl’s life torn apart by war, a story of tragedy and eventual triumph – and tell it on the stage? The imagined emotional impact of that staging is akin to moments felt while watching “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” which recently opened at Hartford Stage under the direction of Hershey Felder. xxxxxx (more…)

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    Yale Rep and Brecht’s, ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’: Powerful, but Polemical

    Geary Danihy

    Chivas Michael, Steven Skybell, and Daniel Schlosberg in ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle.’ All photos © Carol Rosegg, 2015.

    Bertolt Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” is as much an exercise in dramatic theory as it is a drama – or a parable. As currently staged by the Yale Repertory Theatre under the direction of Diamond, it has its moments, but as you sit and watch the events unfold you can’t help but feel you are auditing some graduate seminar. You are an observer, and that was Brecht’s intention, for in his theory of “epic theatre,” the audience was to be kept at a distance, essentially alienated, never allowed to develop empathy for the characters. xxxxxx  (more…)

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    The Price of Admission

    Stephen Kobasa

    (Bardo Museum, Tunis, 18 March 2015)

    tunis museum roman mosaic




    It was a bit steep,

    as you discovered when

    the guns began their guided tour.


    (In Parliament, hearing the shots,

    the legislators scurried away with their outrage).


    Shell casings bounce across the mosaics.

    What older assassins might have left their work

    on these tiles,

    some petty Caesar’s blood?


    And this was Carthage, too,

    until the Romans posted it with curses

    that have yet to be lifted.

    The story of the salted ground was a lie.

    Simply unnecessary.


    In other galleries, other cities,

    the statues have been erased into

    what they were

    before there were gods.


    Here, when you died,

    the statues vanished.

    You were the last to see them

    free of the footnote

    of your murders.


    Everyone who comes


    will think of you.

    This is where it happened, they will say.



    If they come.

                   – Stephen Vincent Kobasa

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    New York’s Off Broadway Scene: A Plethora of Solo Shows Now Playing

    Edward Rubin

    www.artesmagazine.comSolo shows, especially here in New York City, are a big thing. Big enough for New York City to have the world’s largest annual international festival for solo performances. Produced by United Solo, the festival will be celebrating its sixth season on Theatre Row in the heart of the city’s theatre district from September 17 – November 22, 2015. xxxxxx (more…)

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    Angell Gallery, Toronto: Steve Driscoll’s Painted Deceptions

    Emese Krunak-Hajagos

    www.artesmagazine.comAs I walked through the Toronto International Art Fair recently, a strong, large work with bright, burning red colors caught my eye. Thinking it a bit too much, I kept walking; but somehow, after more browsing, I returned to it. Something about the painting intrigued me. It was Steve Driscoll’s “Seared by the Sun” (left), depicting a landscape set afire by the setting sun. xxxxxx (more…)

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    Editor’s Letter: March, 2015

    Richard Friswell


    DSCN9078“Accuracy Is Not Truth” ~ Eugène Delacroix


    Left: Samuel J. Miller, Frederick Douglass (c. 1852). Private collection. 

    Why Black Art Matters


    The tumultuous universe of the visual arts coheres around a dual organizing principle: what have you got to say and how do you say it? This narrative underpinning has been true for as long as we have allowed art to occupy more than a mere decorative place in our experiential universe. Some would argue that prehistoric cave paintings and early Renaissance religious works mattered equally to their respective communities for their devotional and mystical properties; that is, their power to transport the viewer to a higher, spiritual plane. xxxxxx  (more…)

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    The Film, ‘Mr. Turner': Art is the Proper Task of Life

    Nancy Kempf



    Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner, on location in Wales

    Impressionism’s precursor, J.M.W. Turner, embraced the magical power of light and a new way of seeing.

    The portrait of the artist as a tortured genius is a ragged cliché, but clichés are clichés because they are truer than not. A luminary such as J.M.W. Turner would seem unusual territory for Mike Leigh, a limner of the common man whose butchers and bakers and candlestick makers struggle to stay afloat in the face of social and personal hardship. What Leigh showed us in his 1999 Topsy-Turvy, and lays bare again in Mr. Turner, is that great artists are mere mortals, too, ordinary people with ordinary problems facing quotidian pettiness and profound despair. And like the rest of us, rely on ego, self-deception, secrets and lies – and sometimes hope and grace – to cope. xxxxxx (more…)

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    New York’s Westside Theatre ‘Application Pending’: One Actress, 43 Characters, 75 Minutes

    Edward Rubin

    Christina Bianco in ‘Application Pending.’ All photos: Joan Marcus

    It took fifteen-minutes, as I watched Application Pending, to adjust to Christina Bianco’s electrifying, over-the-top performance. Between her ‘faster than a speeding bullet’ character changes—each with their own voice and mannerisms—and a surprisingly intelligent script that skewers just about everything and everybody in the most non-PC way, I had to reprogram my brain to take it all in. If I didn’t, my head would have exploded with all of the different personalities and hot-button topics being fired at the audience from the stage. xxxxxx (more…)

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    Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts: ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’

    Mark Favermann

    05_-Deutsche-Lufthansa-Ju-52Life sped up during the middle of the 20th Century. It also gained a sense of style. This appealing exhibition of collectors Fred and Jean Sharf’s wonderful collection of a variety of transportation art and objects proves that acceleration and aesthetics make an exhilarating combo.

    From an early age, most of us treasure model cars, airplanes and trains. It may have something to do with fantasy, a sense of imagined Lilliputian power or just a love of beautifully made scale models that we can hold in our hands. These may be outmoded generalizations, but most boys adore model trains, cars, trucks and airplanes, while a large majority of girls start out liking doll houses and everything that goes into and outside of them. There is a certain magic to miniaturization.

    Above: Deutsche Lufthansa Ju 52 model. Photo: Mark Wallison, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.xxxxxx (more…)

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    Metropolitan Museum of Art Speaks Out on Recent ISIS Atrocities

    Richard Friswell

    mosul cropARTES wishes to add its voice to that of the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas P. Campbell, and others, on the destruction of priceless artifacts at Iraq’s Mosul Museum. His statement reads:

    Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum’s collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated. xxxxxx (more…)

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    By Design: A Transformed Cooper-Hewitt New York Museum Reopens

    Mark Favermann

    Cooper-Hewitt-Smithsonian-installation crop-C_dezeen_468_1At their best, the exhibitions at the restored, renovated, and expanded Cooper-Hewitt Museum explore the history and culture of design and decorative arts with transcendent panache.

    We go to a design museum to see the best of form and function. Because design is the intersection of art and function, aesthetics and technology, its physical grace is underscored by its utility. In the last half-century, objects of design (in some cases objects of desire) have been showcased with care and scholarly intensity in design museums throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. Over the years, the enthusiasm for design has spread. Now corporations see the notion of good — even great design — as a goal. Design is not only fashionable and chic, but it has become mainstream.

    Above: Installation view, “Controller of the Universe” and Solar Wall, in “Tools: Extending Our Reach.” Photo: Matt Flynn, courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design. xxxxxx (more…)

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    In Oscar Season: True Stories (Bio-Pics) Hold Timeless Appeal

    Nancy Kempf

    gbh 2Biographical films and films based-on-a-true story certainly seem to have become the favored source material over original screenplays. One can hardly sit through a series of trailers without “Based on a true story” flashing across the screen at least once. Of the Academy’s eight finalists for this year’s Best Picture nominations, fully half are biopics – American SniperThe Imitation GameSelma, and The Theory of EverythingBirdmanBoyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, based on a story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, are all nominees for Best Original Screenplay as well. The original screenplay for Whiplash, Damien Chazelle has said, is largely autobiographical.[i] xxxxxx (more…)

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    New York City’s La MaMa Galleria: Christopher Tanner’s ‘Eye of the Heart’

    Edward Rubin

    Christopher Tanner, Untitled Nude, mixed media

    There is never a month gone by when somebody does not run into me on the street and ask whether or not I have heard about Christopher Tanner’s latest.  And I have to ask, “Are you talking about his artwork? Is he having another exhibition, performing on stage, in play, in a movie, on TV, or is doing some of his own filmmaking?” What is it this time? xxxxxx (more…)

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    Boston Museum of Fine Arts Showcased ‘Goya: Order/Disorder’

    Elaine A. King



    Francisco Goya y Lucientes, ‘Self-Portrait While Painting’ (about 1795), oil on canvas. Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid.

    Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes has been attributed with being the last of the Spanish Old Masters, while credited at times with being the father of modern art; not only because of the liberties he took in rendering his subjects and the treatment of space and light, but also for his subversive critique of Spanish society.

    Having studied such greats as Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez and Rembrandt van Rijn, and creating reproductions of their work, Goya turned out to be a great romantic painter—both a chronicler and commentator of his era. Additionally, he was the official painter for 4 successive kings, thus witnessing a side of life that many were not privileged to see.  Few artists in the 18th century were engaged in political critique attacking the hypocrisy rampant in society. xxxxxx (more…)

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    Life, Times of Caravaggio after Rome: A Quest for Art & Inspiration

    Linda Y. Peng

    Self-portrait_as_the_Sick_Bacchus_by_CaravaggioMichelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio arrived in Rome in 1592, at the age of 21. During his next fourteen years there—in a city filled with artists all rivaling for commissions—Caravaggio managed to outshine them all. Pilgrims, both religious and artistic, flocked to see his paintings at the altars of its churches, as he was soon to be acknowledged as one of the most famous artists then in Rome.

    Above, left: Michelangelo da Caravaggio, ‘Self-portrait as the Young, Sick Bacchus’ (1593). Galleria Borghese, Rome. xxxxxx (more…)

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    Hartford TheaterWorks’ ‘Playing the Assassin’: Delivers a Stinging Hit

    Geary Danihy

    Baseball may be “America’s game,” but there’s no denying that it’s football – especially the National Football League’s version – that stirs the male loins and drives fans year after year to stadiums, sports bars and in-house parties to watch large, well-conditioned men beat the crap out of each other while scoring touchdowns. The organized »more

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