Jeanne-Claude, artist, collaborator and partner of Christo, passed away last week at the age of 74. The memory and contribution of their collective body of work can never die.
"Labels are important mostly for bottles of wine—but if you need a label, environmental artist is OK. We work in urban and rural environments." Jeanne-Claude.
While they always claimed that their projects contained no deeper meaning than immediate aesthetic, what I always saw in their work is the ability to see spaces in a new way through a strange addition, omission or transformation. Through simple but grand interventions, they forced us to look at our environments in a different, altered way that could never again allow us to take these places for granted. If you've never encountered their work or just haven't thought about it in a while, here are some brief highlights. They will surely linger in your mind today.
1961: DOCKSIDE PACKAGES, Cologne Harbor
Stacks of oil barrels and large rolls of industrial paper wrapped with tarpaulins and secured with ropes.
1962: WALL OF OIL BARRELS, IRON CURTAIN, Rue Visconti, Paris
Rue Visconti, one of the narrowest streets in Paris, was barricaded for one evening with unaltered industrial oil barrels.
1968-69: WRAPPED COAST, little Bay, Australia
For ten weeks, one million square feet of erosion control fabric and 35 miles of polypropylene rope were used in wrapping the 1.5 mile long 85 feet high and between 150 and 800 feet wide cliff-lined shore area in the South Pacific Ocean. The materials were then removed and recycled.
1970 WRAPPED MONUMENTS, Milan, Italy
Some of Milan's most famous buildings were wrapped with polypropylene fabric and red polypropylene rope.
1972-1976: RUNNING FENCE, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California
Designed for complete removal with no visible evidence, a running fence made of 2,222,222 square feet of heavy woven white nylon fabric ran through 24.5 miles of the private properties of 59 ranchers.
1977-78: WRAPPED WALK WAYS, Kansas City, Missouri
135,000 square feet of saffron-colored nylon fabric covered 2.7 miles of formal garden walkways and jogging paths.
1980-83: SURROUNDED ISLANDS, Miami, Florida
Pink woven polypropylene fabric surrounded 11 islands, extending out 200 feet from each island into the Bay.
1971-1995: WRAPPED REICHSTAG, Berlin
One million square feet of thick woven polypropylene fabric with an aluminum surface and 51,181 feet of blue polypropylene rope were used for the wrapping.
1999: THE WALL, Gasometer, Oberhausen, Germany
At 85 feet high and 223 feet wide, the Wall, built entirely of oil barrels, bisects the Gasometer, one of the largest tank structures in the world, into two halves.
1997-1998: WRAPPED TREES, Riehen, Switzerland
178 trees were wrapped with 592,034 square feet of the woven polyester fabric that is used every winter in Japan to protect the trees from frost and heavy snow.
1979-2005: THE GATES, Central Park, New York City
Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux surrounded their park with a stone wall with interruptions that were called Gates. The geometric grid pattern of the walls was reflected in the 7,503 sculptural saffron colored vinyl poles that decorated 23 miles of walkways in Central Park.
Jeanne-Claude wrote: "we have love and tenderness for childhood and for our own lives because we know they will not last. And so we wish our work of art to be once in a lifetime and never again."
Never again will Jeanne-Claude create but her work will survive for many lifetimes.
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