Cristo and Jeanne-Claude

Writers’ Triggers: Go to a cafe or grocery or postoffice. Capture a fragment of conversation. Incorporate that conversation is a short piece.

  • You don’t have to follow the imagined trajectory. Take the dialogue and move it in another direction.
  • You say you don’t have time to capture a fragment? Try this: “It’s a disgrace! Someone should do something about it.”
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“Over the River,” as conceived by Cristo and Jeanne-Claude, is not yet out of the woods. As with most of Cristo’s installations, the permit process is long and torturous. It is just one long slog through mud, paperwork, and politics at the local, state and national level.

Just to bring my out-of-state readers up to speed, Cristo (and Jeanne-Claude his partner for 50 years – now recently deceased) dreamed of draping the Arkansas River between Canon City and Salida, Colorado, with translucent, reflective fabric that would allow viewers to see not only the sky and clouds above the fabric but also the play of water beneath. The installation would involve hanging eight segments of panels to total a stretch of seven miles.

It is an exciting project. On one hand we Coloradoans would host an internationally known artist of great repute. We’d be on the art map! We would draw tourists who would throw their money to the wind, and once they came,they would return. And on their return, they would spend more money. In addition, the installation itself (which is projected to take two years) would provide jobs and stimulate the local economy.

However, many question the value of an installation that will be up only two weeks. Others huff, “Art! You call this art?” And then there are environmental concerns. In particular, some fear that the Big Horn Sheep might be so wary of the panels that they would not come to the river to drink. The biggest concern, however, revolves around State Highway 50, a two-lane, winding road that during the best of times is a challenge to drive. If it is difficult to drive the road during normal traffic, what would it be like with rubbernecking drivers who were looking at the installation and taking pictures while texting on their phones? This is certainly a potential problem that will call for thinking outside the box.

Politicians are a slippery breed and it was interesting to hear Denver mayor and gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper (who came to Westcliffe on a meet-and-greet last month) answer local resident Joanie Liebman as to his take on “Over the River.” Was he for it or against it? Hickenlooper laughed. He recognizes a trick question when he hears one. There is no correct answer.

He began by saying “I think we like people who come to visit, spend money and go home.” And he had us in the palm of his hand because most everyone buys into that notion. Coloradoans want to be selective. If prospective landowners don’t love the Western heritage, if they don’t love dirt roads, if they don’t love the mountains, and if they don’t love being trapped at home by unplowed snow, they should stay in Indiana.

Our biggest nightmare would be that Sunset Magazine or some such publication would feature Westcliffe as one of “The Ten Best Towns to Retire In.” Talk about a kiss of death! Growth… any growth is scary. Smart growth is only less scary. Hickenlooper understands that fear and has his fingers on the pulse of the community.

And yet, (and here comes the slippery part), Hickenlooper spoke of having seen Cristo and Jeanne-Claude’s hanging of 7,500 orange fabric gates in Central Park. And the thing that struck him was how “he [Cristo] created a moment that everyone loved.” Hickenhlooper’s reference was to that synergistic moment when everyone is on the same wave-length… singing from the same hymnal.

What more could we hope for in these politically polarized times?

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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One Response to Cristo and Jeanne-Claude

  1. Joanie says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could truly work together and stop pointing fingers.

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