Christo may be an artist and not a politician, but he watched the recent New York City mayoral race closely.
New Mayor Michael Bloomberg is one of the numerous people who have become interested in the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, a married couple that creates unorthodox art involving cloth wrappings and hangings.
Bloomberg’s election has renewed Christo’s hopes of hanging yellow fabric panels over the pathways of Central Park, a project he has envisioned since 1977.
This project made up part of the discussion yesterday at an Ezra Stiles College Master’s Tea with the two artists, who spoke to an audience of about 40.
“We’d like to energize the walking system in Central Park. [The hangings] would reflect the organic shape of the walking system,” Christo said.
The couple became famous for wrapping public buildings like the Reichstag, the German parliament building.
But Jeanne-Claude repeatedly reminded the audience that she and Christo do not simply wrap things, although the media has often portrayed their art that way. She also discussed the reasons she and her husband create.
“Our work has no purpose whatsoever,” Jeanne-Claude said. “It is good for nothing except to be a work of art.”
The couple currently is working on two projects, the Central Park project and one involving the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Patricio Zambrano ’05 said he enjoyed both the slides showing the couple’s work and the overall presentation.
“I loved how they interacted with each other as a couple,” Zambrano said. “It made me wonder how they interact when they create.”
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were born on the same day in June 1935. They met in Paris in 1958, when Christo came to paint a portrait of Jeanne-Claude’s mother. At the time, he also washed cars and dishes to help make ends meet.
“I became an artist out of love for Christo,” Jeanne-Claude said. “If he had been a dentist, I probably would have been a dentist.”
In 1964, they moved to New York City, where they still live today. Inspired by the city skyline, they decided they wanted to wrap some buildings in Midtown, but they were unable to get permission.
“The owners, they think we are lunatics,” Christo said.
Projects that came to fruition include an “Iron Curtain” wall of 2,000 oil barrels created the year after the Berlin Wall was built and the placement of thousands of blue umbrellas in a valley in Japan and yellow umbrellas in a valley in California for two weeks in 1996.
The two artists said an important aspect of their work is that it is temporary, as people have love and tenderness for things that do not last.
“This quality of love and tenderness, we wish to add it into our work of art,” Jeanne-Claude said. “We allow the public 14 days. — [But] 14 hours would be enough [for us].”
In order to plan for their installations, the artists meet with engineers and sometimes even employ the expertise of wind tunnel technicians to design the projects. Christo makes collages of the projects that incorporate cloth, pastels, charcoal and pencil, many of which he sells later.
All the cloth from the projects is recycled afterwards, Jeanne-Claude said.
The projects, which often cost thousands of dollars, are funded by the sale of Christo’s art.
“We aren’t independently wealthy,” Christo said. “Our money all comes from the art that I do here with my own two hands. We could have a castle in Spain, or a home in the French Riviera.”