Boston-area arts letters

Colby College Museum of Art

This ‘Old Man’ seems content

Sebastian Smee — please! Duane Hanson’s “Old Man Playing Solitaire” is not necessarily waiting for death (“With his art, sculptor did not play games,” g, Oct. 8). He may not be young and vibrant, but his demeanor does not convey sadness, resignation, or despair. His shoulders do not droop sadly, his face not a mask; he is a man intent on his game plan, and with a restorative cup of coffee or tea by his side as well.

Normally, I read Smee’s words eagerly, and learn a great deal from his explanations, often nodding vigorously in agreement with various interpretations of a piece of art. This is perhaps the first time I have seriously disagreed with what he has written. Anyone can impose his or her interpretation on an observed scene — real or artistic — but Smee wrote much too definitively about what is merely just speculation.



The view from the streets


I am sure Sebastian Smee has been flooded with positive comments for his very thoughtful and interesting piece about temporary and permanent public art (“Moving beyond the bronze age,” A1, Oct. 6). Temporary installations can go a long way to challenge an audience and create a dialogue, and they are less controversial in that they are not there forever. Perhaps some temporary works of art could become permanent if they are embraced by their communities.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here


Portland, Maine

I feel the same way about art in this city. There is no joy here. As an alumnus of MassArt, this is a frustrating topic for me. Where is the outrageous public art, the stuff that makes you look, think, and smile? Other cities support it. Have you taken a trip to Providence lately? The city is half as big on population but twice as big on art.



The situation for public art could be worse. Los Angeles, for example, has loads of murals but proportionally almost no worthwhile public art. Consider the sorry state in Richmond, Va., where Monument Avenue is glorious, but the only monument not related to war is the one for Arthur Ashe. Boston is no better and no worse than many places: Paris, London, Amsterdam . . . I could go on. Berlin has a lot of good public art as a contrast.




Oldies but goodies

The Brian Wilson/Jeff Beck show at the Wang Center was amazing (“From two veteran performers, a virtuoso night of music,” Metro, Oct. 11). Just to be in the presence of the sheer genius that is Wilson and the guitar virtuosity of Beck was a mind-expanding experience. I was, am, and always will be a Beach Boys devotee, and that’s what brought me to the Wang. Jeff Beck, although not of my genre, was an added bonus.

But please, Geoff Edgers, get off the Mike Love thing! We see the Beach Boys’ touring company of Love, Bruce Johnston, and their amazing band three to four times a year and never tire of hearing the classics. We love Brian’s old and new projects. There is a place for both.



Context is everything, and all too often music reviewers comment on what’s in front of them without considering the larger picture: What has been the artist’s journey to now, what is the larger significance of the current performance, and what does it all mean? Geoff Edgers’s review of the rare Brian Wilson/Jeff Beck double bill was a refreshing change of pace. He knows the back stories, and that adds the critical context that enables him to note not just what made the music good, but what made the concert special. He gets it.




Swooning over Sargent

Thank you for the wonderful article on the extraordinary John Singer Sargent watercolor exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts (“At a glance,” g, Oct. 11), which my wife and I viewed yesterday. The article was as good as the watercolors themselves, and made us want to see the exhibit again. Once was not enough; we shall return.



Letters for publication should include the writer’s name, address, and daytime phone number for verification. All letters are subject to editing. Send to