Monday, October 21, 2019

A New Fascination

And that would be the artist Christo and his wife Jean-Claude who were the first to put up elaborate outdoor sculptures for a limited time only.  One of their first was "Valley Curtain" in 1974.  "Running Fence" in 1990 and more, but locally we could visit "Umbrellas" up near Bakersfield.  They were all huge yellow umbrellas dotted about these rolling hills. Part of their appeal was knowing (via media coverage)  that if you drilled straight through the earth to a site in Japan, there would be an equal amount of blue umbrellas!  The sheer hugeness for temporary works of art - typically 14 days - intrigues.

Christo and Jean-Claude were born on the same day - June 13, 1935 at the same hour.  Jean-Claude in an interview said that was why she had become an artist.  She quipped, "If he'd become a dentist, I would probably have become a dentist, too."  The video we watched last night "The Gates" took place in Central Park in 2007.  Two years later, Jean-Claude would die in New York of complications from a brain aneurism.  She was 74 years old.  Christo is 84.

Their works call for a lot of engineering knowledge.  "Running Fence" in Sonoma and Marin Counties  used 2,152,780 sq. ft. of heavy, woven white nylon hung from a steel cable strung between 2,050 21 ft. 4 in steel poles.   There were 14,000 earth anchors into the ground, braced laterally by guy wires; no concrete.  The whole thing was designed to be deconstructed in a way that didn't even leave a hint that it had ever been there. "Running Fence" was 18 ft. high, 24.5 miles long, ending at the Pacific Ocean in Bodega Bay.

They did not accept sponsorship funds and in fact, paid all costs themselves from the sales of models, drawings and collages.  The "Running Fence" materials were donated to the 59 farmers whose lands  it had crossed.  

During the documentary "The Gates" the figure $20 million was bounced about. "The Gates" very nearly didn't happen at all and, in fact, it 24 years to git'er done.  The New Yorkers had a fit at the very thought that "their" Central Park would be fiddled with.  "It's like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa" they howled in outrage.  It wasn't until 2003 when art-loving mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed it through. Some 4 million visitors in mid-winter in only 14 days … I think that part appeals to NYers.  If they don't get there right this second it'll be gone.  

Christo is quoted:  "Do you know I don't have any art or that they exist.  They all go away when they're finished.  Only the prep drawings and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character.  I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain."

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