I wish I could find photos that convey how wonderful Christo and Jeanne-Claude were in person. I heard that she passed away on November 18th. It's not easy to imagine the two of them apart. When I saw them, she did most of the talking.
As a student, I saw photos of their art. I wasn't fully feeling something about it. I wasn't embracing it and digging it as much as I wanted to. Sometimes, of course, I love a work of art right away. Keep in mind I'm not talking about respect here, I'm talking about love. I can respect something immediately because I see the talent and the heart that went into it. On the other hand, of course, sometimes I dislike a piece of art right away. I'm referring to art as a song, a play, a film, a book, a runway show, a painting, and so on and so forth. I disagree with an artist friend of mine, a guy who once said to me "all works of art are beautiful." I get what he means, I wish I agreed, but for me, there have to be things I don't find beautiful, in order to have a frame of reference for what I think beauty is.
There is plenty of art that I reserve judgment on. Sometimes I must revisit it, even if it means reading a book a second time. Or I need to see it in person, or simply look at it more often, let it be in my life longer, before I know if I like or dislike it. If that makes sense to any of you, I'm happy, because I'm not sure how well I can explain the feeling. People usually expect me to like or dislike an artist instantly.
An old best friend of mine, named Melella, understood. I burned him a CD, and there was one song he fell in love with much later. I remember he used to say that the superior song on the album was the one that he realized was amazing after he'd listened to the song many times. Felt as good as discovering something hidden. "The song that grows on you is probably better than the song you loved at first listen." I don't think Melella's is a hard and fast rule...but I knew what he meant. Anyway, this is a roundabout analogy for the fact that Christo and Jeanne-Claude are now some of my favorite artists of all time, but when I first saw photos of their work I was definitely lukewarm about them.
As the years went by, I developed an increasing enthusiasm for public art, and I felt more intrigued by Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work every year. Eventually "The Gates" came to
I wondered if it were all pretentiousness, but when I saw the Gates in person, I was converted into a wholehearted fan. Later that year, I saw footage of the duo's decades preparing artworks around the world. They kept going up notches in my book, because I was gaining a sense of what phenomenal artists they were. First off, they were devoted to each other as if it were second nature. Such a cosmic, beautiful love story was there between them.
When I learned that they worked tirelessly, debating with municipalities and mayors, and passing other obstacles in order to get their artworks finished, I realized this team was passionate far beyond what I see in many people. I started to feel defensive of them when people would act like the Gates were ridiculous. I felt protective and endeared towards them. They were visionaries who had to win people over who couldn't see the worth in the art. They seemed so young even though they were about 70 years old.
They don't accept outside funding for their work, they don't make a profit, and it is to be viewed free of charge.
Some words paraphrased from their website:
"Christo and Jeanne-Claude pay the entire cost of the artworks themselves. They earn all of the money through the sale of the preparatory studies, early works from the 1950s and 1960s and original lithographs. They do not accept grants or volunteer help. They do not accept money for things like posters, postcards, books, films, T-shirt and mugs or any other products at all. Christo and Jeanne-Claude firmly believe that to accept deals of this kind would alter and compromise their art. Refusing this money assures they are working in total freedom."
I eventually met them at this little chilled out place after an event, never knowing that would happen. They reminded me of one of my best painter friends from
What do you guys think of these artists? I remember the Gates made me walk to parts of
They made thousands of people feel connected. You walked like an explorer. The color changed your mood. You saw people up ahead of you. Likewise, the people behind you saw you ahead of them. For a few weeks our perceptions of the park and of the other park goers were altered. It was as if we were all swimming in the same current.
I never expected to meet these two, and I never expected that the experience would leave such a deep and lasting impression on me. Thank you Jeanne-Claude... I'll never forget you. Rest in peace.