A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal entitled Christo vs. Colorado discusses the inherent conflict that Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude encounter in an attempt to execute their art into reality.

Photo Credit:  Wolfgang Volz copyright Christo 2007

From the standpoint of a landscape designer and steward of the land, I find myself conflicted with Christo and Jeanne Claude’s work.  I always ask myself the same question:  Do I like this or not, and why?  I still do not have an answer but I tend to like this project.  I have never physically experienced their art, although I’m very aware of it. Their process makes me think and I like that.  I believe that is a fundamental component of their work…the process not the product.  The process of implementing their artistic endeavors follows the same path as an urban planning, landscape architecture, and architectural project would in order to gain approval for construction.  Longevity and long term impact on the landscape marks the difference.  Christo and Jeanne Claude’s artistic installation is temporary while the other projects mentioned are permanent.

The project in discussion is entitled “Over the River.” Christo and Jeanne Claude propose to suspend 42 miles of shiny metallic fabric over the Arkansas river in Colorado for two weeks.  They chose this section of the river for accessibility.  A road meanders along the river providing a vehicular vantage point, and adventurous visitors can raft or kayak under it, while the athletic type might hike along the river bank and engage from above or below.  Why, then, do such artistic interpretations stir up controversy across jurisdictions and local communities?  People like to visit these works, which generates revenue for the local communities and the state.  Money does not grow on trees but this is certainly close considering Christo and his crew are footing the bill for probably more than their share of any impact on the local community and do not take a paycheck for their efforts!

Photo Credit:  Wolfgang Volz copyright Christo 2007

While most might view this project as a means for the artist to gain exposure for his/her creative ego, I feel it serves as a dance floor with a two week performance, featuring Mother Nature herself.  No need to choose a time.  She’ll be dancing day and night. Personally, I’m anxious to see her sway down river in her shiny new threads, with her hair shimmering in the light whether by sun or moon, weaving through the hills in high heels,  pausing now and then to fill her martini glass (or is it scotch along the rocks?) observing all who dare  to join her for the ride.

This earthly exhibition gets us out in the fresh air, instead of placing us in a crowded theater.  It features what is typically taken for granted and combines it with thoughtful analysis and design.  When the exhibition concludes all that remains are memories, photographs, drawings, materials, and arthroscopic scars on the landscape.  If only we could all be so creatively thoughtful and perhaps a bit more flexible when it comes to art + design.

In 2013, I will be rafting down the Arkansas with my husband and two wild animals in tow.

Learn more about Christo or Christo & Jeanne-Claude via Artsy.

Read about The Art Genome Project here.

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