An artistic coup
Christo and Jeanne-Claude leave an artistic impression on Tulsa.
On Saturday night at Philbrook Museum of Art, my wife and I, along with a few hundred of our fellow Tulsans, watched the film “The Gates.” If you’re not familiar with this film, it is a chronicle of the nearly 30-year struggle by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude to install a temporary art project in New York’s Central Park. You’ve probably heard of it. It was BIG.
Well, thanks to the hard work (and good reputation) of the folks at Circle Cinema and Philbrook, we were also able to enjoy a Q&A with the artists. In person. Quite a coup for the city. They were funny, eccentric, a little bit crazy and everything I hoped they would be. For those interested in the arts in Tulsa, I think this was an essential happening.
I’ve always been intrigued by the work of these artists. And intrigued was always the best way I could describe it. I knew that I liked it. And something in me responded to it. But why? I’ll be honest: Most of the questions asked during the Q&A were either a) stupid and redundant or b) asked merely to make the person asking sound smart. I vaguely recall the words “flow of consciousness” popping up at some point. Ugh!
So after all this time, I finally realized why I connect with this work. And that is simple. It is designed to be a mass experience. Something that is brief, yet remembered forever, only getting better in the funhouse mirror that is our collective memory. It’s WE art, not ME art. Now, Christo and Jeanne-Claude said in the film, and in person, that the only reason they do art is for themselves. If we like it, that is a bonus. So if my connection and enjoyment is merely collateral damage, I’ll take it.
By going to a certain locale, temporarily changing the landscape and leaving nothing but a shadow of an experience and images on film, Christo and Jeanne-Claude create memories. They create fodder for stories to be told. Their current project is along the Arkansas River. But, no, not here, in Colorado. At 74 years of age (both), with a slate of projects that seem never-ending, I doubt that Tulsa will ever be able to have it’s own two-week Christo and Jeanne-Claude project. But really, we don’t need it. What we need, and what I hope is coming, is a flight of creative visionaries into our fair city, ready to create the memories that we’ll be talking about when Christo and Jeanne-Claude are themselves mere memories.