capture the moment
Christo – behold, here then gone
create the moment
Looking at the google, it was in 1983 that I first became aware of the artist Christo, who died on May 30th.
That was when he created Surrounded Islands, in Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida.
At the time I thought, what a nut.
But I also had an apreciation for the nut who could sell such a thing.
It wasn’t until much later that I learned that Christo was actually Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
It was the team of Christo and his wife that created these works of art.
I also learned much later that they did not seek or accept government grants or funding for their projects.
All their projects were self funded through the sale of their other art.
I had to admire the couple.
Much of their art involved years of working out details with government agencies.
My Brother-in-Law Bob is a top shelf property developer.
I asked him once what was the secret to Richard Daley and Chicago.
Bob said you had one meeting.
If Daley said yes, there was no need for other meetings.
The opposite was also true in that if he said no, there was no need for another meeting.
Bob recounted had to took 17 zoning board meetings to put a K Mart in Livonia, Michigan.
So here are these local and federal government agencies.
Here comes Christo and Jeanne-Claude and they want to set up a cloth wall running for 25 miles across multiple jurisdictions.
Or they want to set up umbrellas along the coast of Japan and California.
Or they want to wrap islands in pink.
Or drape buildings in gray.
There was no Mayor Daley for art.
And yet somehow they pulled it off.
There weren’t making art for the ages but art for the moment.
Sometimes setting up a project for a few weeks.
Sometimes arguing with police to let a project blocking a road stay up for a few hours.
But taking years to develop and plan this projects.
I didn’t begin to really enjoy Christo’s work until I had a Christo moment.
Back in the late 1990’s I worked at Zondervan Publishing in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Zondervan had an art department to design the covers of the books they published.
Part of the Art Department equipment was a state of the art thermal transfer color printer.
This printer was one of the first color printers I had ever seen.
Instead of ink, the colors came in these long rolls of thick transparent plastic, much like plastic cling wrap, but thicker.
This ink roll was probably about 1000 feet long.
After each roll was used up, it would be replaced and the old roll tossed in the trash.
I happened to be in the art area one day and I noticed one these in the trash.
The art area being a corner building where at least three columns of Steelcase office cubicles came together from the the left and right.
A 1000 foot rolled up transparent rainbow of plastic wrap.
The last 3 or 4 feet was loose in the trash barrel.
I probably thought about my next move for at least, well, one second before I grabbed the old roll out of the trash.
I took the loose end and looped it several times around the handle of drawer.
I the plastic by its ends loosely in my fingers so it would unroll.
Then I took off running down the aisles and rows of cubicles yelling CHRISTO CHRISTO.
Back and forth and around I went with the rainbow row of color plastic trailing behind me.
Soon I had wrapped the cubicles on an entire side of the building with a wide ribbon of red, yellow and blues.
No wonder Christo did these crazy things.
The Art Department went along with it.
The Editorial Department put up with it.
The Sales Department got out their scissors.
It didn’t last long.
It was before everyone had cell phone cameras so no photos exist.
It was a moment.
It was wonderful.
I take this moment to remember Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
A moment to remember and to say thank you.