In Memory of Jeanne-Claude

JEANNE-CLAUDE (1935-2009) was a once in a lifetime artist.  With Christo, they created a one of a kind love story that everyone in the design world envies.  Jeanne-Claude once said in an interview, “part of the beauty of art – like the gates at Central Park, or the running fence or the umbrellas – is that it’s fleeting.  That makes our time with it all much more urgent or sweeter……. our relationship with people is temporal in nature, but indelible in memory.”  At 74, Jeanne-Claude left the world with memories of beautiful landscapes + buildings + objects underneath her colorful fabrics.  Her creations embodied whole new definitions in art and left us both forever inspired.  In remembrance of Jeanne-Claude, the following is a blog we drafted last year following our viewing of a short film on the couple together with a few of their projects that stole our hearts at first sight:

[05.18.2009]  The idea of ‘wrapping’ as art puzzled us a bit at first, as we could only imagine objects to be skinned with almost a camouflage to blend into their context.  And to cover up the original beauty of something as an artistic expression simply defies its logic in our humble opinion.  The film ‘Islands,’ however, erased our early skepticism towards Christo + Jeanne Claude’s (C/JC) creation, and their ‘wrapped islands’ in Miami actually aroused our interests in the rest of their portfolio.  And as we researched more on their work, our doubt about C/JC has gradually grown into admiration.  For 30+ years, the husband and wife have put numerous buildings, objects and even natural landscape behind that metallic white (polypropylene) fabric for a whole new genre of sculptural art and a new dimension to what is ‘already there.’

On one hand, this new dimension is physical, with a unique light and wind reflection off the polypropylene that offers an experience the actual subject does not. (the Pont Neuf, Paris + the Reichstag, Berlin being our favorites).  The draping of the fabric, the subtle hints of the subject, and even the random lines formed by the ropes are simple and poetic.  On the other hand, this new layer carries suspense when the art is hidden from reality and the human eye.  With this sort of mystical approach, C/JC created an opportunity for dialogue as everyone is trying to uncover what is under/behind that white cloth.  Constructive or not, this dialogue is healthy as the couple got the attention. Their work is mostly temporary and transient.  It isn’t so much the result but the process that the artists enjoy, when people interact with the art, raise questions and express their opinions.  It is a process of critique, collaboration and hopefully creation that C/JC  fosters in his audience.  Right, wrong or indifferent, it is a similar philosophy to justify the out-of-context uniqueness of the Experience Music Project and the Seattle Central Library in our own backyard.  C/JC, however, put no judgment on this ‘process’ they create.  In fact, like most other true artists in our eyes, C/JC believes in beautiful things and the only way to see them is to build them, even at such monumental scale.  Christo and Jeanne-Claude create for themselves, not others.

Considering the tremendous efforts in earning permission to do his projects (globally), Americans view C/JC’s expense on the artwork a waste and could be used in other meaningful ways.  But they seem to forget how our federal money goes down the drain in ridiculous ways every day.  The French, however, present a different brutal reality of politics when art is constantly challenged by stringent processes and ugly bureaucracy.  But Christo and his partner kept charging forward.  The Germans represent the more practical crowd, concerned with the physical integrity of the subject and what goes on behind that ‘curtain’ during the art-making process.  But the thousands of artists working on either side of that curtain cherish every bit of that temporary and yet memorable or even life-changing experience and process of creation.  Despite all the hard work and controversies, C/JC represent an undying spirit to realize a vision and that’s what art is all about.  They takes the risks to not only make a statement but also offer a whole different perspective to view our environment.  They exposes the world by covering it up; he hides the answer before asking the question.  They are true and great artists, not frauds, by provoking thinking and criticism, by stimulating senses and awareness, by giving beautiful forms + landscape the credit they deserve.

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