Christo Close To Closure

Main Street, Westcliffe, CO

Did I mention that I live is a small town? A small cold town that lies exposed in a windy valley at 8,000 feet  between two mountain ranges. It was two degrees above zero Farenheit at seven o’clock this morning – a heatwave of sorts. The temperature fell to -17F the night I took this photo. I love it. Those who live in the mountains and don’t mind the cold, stay; those who whine and moan, go. Good riddance. There is nothing I like better than to walk down Main Street at night. For the most part, the sidewalks do roll up at dark. Many times I am the only person on the street. I’m filled with wonder that in this bustling world, I have the town to myself.

Walking the side streets, I imagine the lives inside the homes. Those with dark windows, they are asleep or trying to sleep or nestled in someone’s arms. Homes with lit windows suggest other stories. Are they restless? Maybe they are in pain? Maybe they are reading, listening to music or watching television. Perhaps they have fallen asleep in front of the television. Maybe they are friending someone on Facebook. Maybe they are watching porn. Maybe they are making a hot cup of cocoa. Perhaps they have indigestion. Where the heck is the Maalox? Will a glass of milk help? Milk of Magnesia… You can call the neighbors for a cup of sugar, but Milk of Magnesia… in the middle of the night…?

Groupie that I am, I caught Christo at the Steam Plant in Salida on Wednesday. I love that guy. He is tenacious. I think of him as a bull-dog and then I draw back. Christo is too slight of build to be a bull-dog. Christo is more like a small fierce terrier. He sets his teeth and does not let go. In terms of the permitting process, it took 24 years of wrangling to wrap Germany’s parliament; 26 years to install “The Gates” in Central Park; and an incredible 32 years to wrap 178 trees in Switzerland. The relatively short permitting process for his installation over the Arkansas is nothing short of a miracle. “Imagine,” Christo enthused, “14 years discussing something that does not exist!”

A conceptual poster by Christo

If you haven’t been following Christo, his most recent project in progress is “Over the River,” and the exciting part is that the river is the Arkansas and the Arkansas is in my backyard. Sort of. It is actually a half hour north between Canon City and Salida. His plan is to drape portions of the river in transparent/translucent panels that will hang from cables driven into the canyon walls. Early on, the environmentalists were not amused. They feared for the mountain sheep who, given the construction activity on the river, might hesitate to come to the water to drink. And there were other concerns as well. To read about the pros and cons, I suggest that you read an article that I wrote for Colorado Central Magazine, September, 2005.

Wednesday’s gathering was short and sweet. A love-fest complete with a tasty buffet and Christmas trees ablaze in white lights.  All the naysayers had stayed home. The Environmental Impact Statement was positive: there was no reason for them to wag their fingers and shake their fists. At this point it is just up to the Chaffee and Fremont County Commissioners. Chaffee County has not yet set the date for their hearings; Fremont County will hear debate in February.

The sale of riginal drawings and prints funds the installations.

I was happy to see Christo looking tired but more buoyant than the last time I saw him. His wife, muse, and partner Jeanne-Claude died last year, and when I saw him soon after her death, he was half the man he was. He appears to be in recovery, but he never fails to mention her name and give her credit in his opening remarks. On Wednesday he opened with apologizing for not speaking as wittily or fluently as Jeanne-Claude. I miss her crazy orange hair and her energy. She was one of those women who lit up a room. Her passions were palpable. I would have followed her anywhere. Her death is a loss. It was always such a treat to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude play off one another. Speaking-wise, she was in the driver’s seat; he was a passenger putting his foot on the brake, telling her to slow down, swaying as she took him at high speed through the tight curves. Laughing.

Christo signs my free poster!

Following my Sept. 2005 article in Colorado Central Magazine, Kenneth Jessen, Loveland, CO, responded in October with a letter to the editor: “Christo has emphasized again and again that the process of creating a piece is as much a part of the art as the final result. This includes his critics. For those who do not like the idea of draping a perfectly beautiful river in colored cloth panels, stay away; otherwise, you will become a part of the art.”

Jessen’s comments are so true. Wednesday, Christo thanked numerous people to include his critics who added to and modified his vision. “Collaboration” might be too strong a word, but Christo’s critics would be mortified to learn that in one sense, they collaborated in the finished product.

I like to think that people who may have never thought deeply about art have become, like it or not / willingly or not / engaged. What is art? What is the purpose of art? What is Christo’s aim?

It is exciting stuff and I can hardly wait to volunteer come the summer of 2014.


Writers’ Trigger:

  • Clearly, Christo is one of my heroes. Do you have a hero? Write about your attraction to your hero.
  • You are with your hero – perhaps there has been an accident and you come upon your hero or your hero comes upon you. How about some dialogue?
  • Hero-worship is pretty superficial. Contrast your main character’s hero-worship with his realization of the hero’s true persona.
  • Our heroes are not always celebrities. Sometimes it is a friend or a member of our own family. When I am tired, I often think of my Welsh grandmother, the wife of a miner with black-lung and the mother of 13 who ran a boarding house in which she fed and housed four school teachers.

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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2 Responses to Christo Close To Closure

  1. Wonderful, Doris, I envy you. Helga

    • timeout2 says:

      Thank you, Helga. It is nice to have someone in my corner when I have a fair number of detractors. Are you on Facebook? If you are, you should check the flack I’m getting on the Christo piece. Depressing.

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