Environmental artists Jeanne-Claude, Christo donate works for Owens exhibit, fundraiserWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Whenever world-renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude are asked about the construction of their uniquely different and unusually large artwork, the married couple’s answer is the same.
“Ask your mother if she was there when you were born,” Jeanne-Claude said of her and her husband’s hands-on nature. “Each one of our works of art is a child of ours.”
With fabric and cord, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have temporarily wrapped everything from tin cans to entire buildings. But it’s not just wrappings that define their work; the common denominator is the use of fabric, cloth and textile.
Their work has included “Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California 1972-76;” “Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, 1980-83;” “The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85;” and “The Umbrellas, Japan-USA 1984-91.”
Owens Community College will celebrate the couple’s four-decade career with an exhibit and fundraiser at the Walter E. Terhune Gallery. Through April 3, the exhibit will contain up to 50 hand-signed posters of their work; there are 60 posters total. The proceeds from the sale of the posters will go toward developing a scholarship for an arts student and supporting The Center for Fine and Performing Arts at Owens Community College.
Gallery manager Wynn Perry said the posters were donated by the artists and are replications of preliminary drawings, collages and photographs of their finished work. The pieces can be purchased for $250 and vary in size and can be framed. An auction to aid the fundraiser will be hosted at 7 p.m. March 15; tickets are $50 and include appetizers and entertainment.
“They are beautifully printed,” Perry said of the posters, which are not tax-deductible because they have market value.
Describing their art is difficult, and Jeanne-Claude said she and her husband prefer to stay away from labels. But if they had to, she said, they would consider themselves environmental artists because they work in both the rural and urban environments.
Their earlier projects included “Wrapped Coast Australia, 1968-1969;” and most recently “The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005.” “The Gates” remained in Central Park for 16 days, but took 26 years to come to fruition. Getting permission to build in public arenas is challenging, Jeanne-Claude said.
“We like to work in real life and real life means real wind, real rain, real heat, real cold, real snow, which you cannot easily have indoors,” said the 72-year-old.
“What the fabric does is covers all the details … the fabric only the leaves the essence of the building.”
Perry was skeptical of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work in the 1970s, but her mind was quickly changed when she watched a documentary on one of their projects.
“It is amazing,” Perry said. “Even if you don’t have an arts background, you will think [their works] are beautiful,” she said.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were both born June 13, 1935, he in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, and Jeanne-Claude in Casablanca, Morocco. In 1964, they and their son immigrated to New York City, where they have since lived.
Jeanne-Claude was educated in France and Switzerland, and earned degrees in philosophy and Latin from the University of Tunis. Christo and she met in Paris in 1958 when Christo was hired to do a portrait of Jeanne-Claude’s mother.
They don’t foresee leaving their art behind soon, but they are getting older, Jeanne-Claude said. Two projects are works in progress: “Over the River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado;” and “The Mastaba: Project for the United Arab Emirates.”
“We are almost 73 years old,” Jeanne-Claude said. “We hope very much to see those two finished at least and maybe another.”
Free and open to the public
Monday through Wednesday, Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Film series, 7 p.m. March 11
Gateway to the Arts, 7 p.m. March 15; tickets are $50 and include dinner and entertainment, as well as auction for Christo and Jeanne-Claude posters. Call the box office at (567) 661-2652