Explore Fiber is a collaborative website showcasing and exploring fiber as a fine art material.
Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude are my favorite fiber artists of all time. Their vision and ability to create on a monumental scale absolutely blow my mind. Fearless and innovative, they have created many temporary public installations around the world. If you are not familiar with the body of their work, here is a short list to some of the projects they have created (the dates represent the beginning and realization dates of each project. I am listing in order of conceptual beginning):
The current work in progress is Over the River. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s vision for Over The River was conceived in 1992 and includes 5.9 miles (9.5 kilometers) of silvery translucent fabric panels suspended clear of and high above the water in eight separate areas along a 42 mile (67.6 kilometer) stretch of the Arkansas River between Cañon City and Salida in southern Colorado.
Here are a few facts listed on their website from their FAQ page:
Who pays for the installations?
Christo and Jeanne-Claude pay the entire cost of the artworks themselves. They earn all of the money through the sale of Christo’s preparatory studies and early works from the 50’s and 60’s. They do not accept grants or sponsorships of any kind. They do not accept donated labor (volunteer help). They do not accept money for things like posters, postcards, books, films, T-shirts and mugs or any other products at all. None.
Art collectors who are interested in acquiring original preparatory works of art may contact webmaster Jok Church by e-mail. Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always acted as their own art dealers and Christo continues to present original preparatory work to collectors in his studio, by appointment. All of the money for projects come from these art sales.
Why are their works so big? What’s the point?
Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s works are entire environments, whether they are urban or rural. The artists temporarily use one part of the environment. In doing so, we see and perceive the whole environment with new eyes and a new consciousness. The effect lasts longer than the actual work of art. Years after every physical trace has been removed and the materials recycled, original visitors can still see and feel them in their minds when they return to the sites of the artworks.
Why wrapping? Why fabric?
When Christo began to wrap objects in 1958, he used everyday objects such as shoes, telephones and empty paint cans to make his sculptures. Once wrapped, the objects would take on a new identity. By wrapping them, he would reveal some of the most basic features and proportions of the object by concealing the actual item. Christo and Jeanne-Claude later expanded this idea in projects such as The Pont Neuf Wrapped and the Wrapped Reichstag, but on a much larger scale. While the intricate details of the structures are hidden, the essence of the structures are revealed all the while making the imposing and solid structure seem airy and nomadic.
The use of real fabric also gives the work a fragile, sensual and temporary character while wrapping objects is definitely an important part of their œuvre, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have done very few wrappings in comparison to their whole portfolio of artworks. It is easier for some to grasp the wrapping concept and refer to their artworks entirely as “wrapping,” but the work is more about altering an environment than wrapping – which is only one way to do that. The last time the artists had an idea for a wrapping was in 1975, when they had the idea of wrapping the Pont-Neuf in Paris, ten years before they realized the work of art.
The Over the River project website is a great place to visit to monitor the progress of the installation. Their projects take years to fully realize partly because they have to secure legal permission to place them in these large environments. Originally slated to be viewed during two weeks in August 2014, legal hurdles have postponed the project to a future August. I was unable to visit The Gates when it was in NYC in 2005. I will not miss viewing this project so I will keep a close eye on the developments as they take place. You can sign up to get updates about the project and can take other steps to Get Involved.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude are two of my heroes. They are passionate. They are uncompromising to their vision. They are fearless and determined that nothing will stop them despite years of problems and road blocks. Their work is beautiful, ephemeral, fleeting and amazing. I am inspired, humbled and emboldened by their amazing life and art – I hope you are too!