I had such a great time last night at the Christo & Jeanne-Claude lecture. They are both now 70 years old, having been born on the same day, and their energy and passion was inspiring. Jeanne-Claude surprised me as a witty and humorous character. She was sort of in the background for so many years and is now finally getting the recognition she deserves as an integral part of the artistic team. I loved the way they interacted, they are a charming couple.

C & J photo
Christo led us through a 40 minute slide presentation in which he described the process of their work. He discussed materials, research, engineering, location, funding and the incredible amount of time and money it takes to realize such monumental works, like the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin. Jeanne-Claude would tell funny anecdotes in between slides. The slide ended with the a full detailed description of their current project that is being developed for the Arkansas River in Colorado, just north of Denver.

After the slide show we had an intermission and were able to write down questions we would like to ask the artists. I was thrilled when I heard them read aloud my question and actually said hello and looked for me in the audience. I asked “What effect does your work aim to have on humans?” And the question was taken very seriously, Jeanne-Claude said that the work they did was for their own pleasure and if others liked it, that was just a plus. She had an interesting analogy, when a parent walks their child down the street and someone stops and says what a beautiful child that is, the parent feel good about it, but the parent did not create the child with the intention that it would please someone. The most moving part of her response for me was when she stated, “Beauty is disarming”, she was referring to the effect the work has on the viewer and how their projects have never been vandalized.

I am of the philosophy that art is a selfless act, done for the benefit of all of us. So her initial response struck me as selfish, but later I understood that they depend on the viewers and their memory of a beautiful fleeting moment. She said their favorite quote is “Once upon a time”.