Found: Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Valley Curtain

 

 

 

 

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a find from my ephemera collection. For my last “Found” post, I published two vintage images of two comic odd couples from my vernacular photography collection.

I discovered this striking postcard of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Valley Curtain far from its source in a small shop near Rabun Gap, Georgia.

On August 10, 1972, in Rifle, Colorado, between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs in the Grand Hogback Mountain Range, at 11 a.m. a group of 35 construction workers and 64 temporary helpers, art-school and college students, and itinerant art workers tied down the last of 27 ropes that secured the 200,200 square feet of woven nylon fabric orange curtain to its moorings at Rifle Gap, 7 miles north of Rifle, on Highway 325.

The Valley Curtain was greeted with enthusiasm by the residents of the town of Rifle and by the construction workers who risked limbs and lives on the stunt. Twenty-eight hours after the piece was installed, it was destroyed by a storm gale in excessive of 60 miles per hour. The project cost over $400,000.

The artists sold drawings and other art work to raise the necessary funds to create the Valley Curtain. Christo and Jeanne-Claude pay for all of their projects themselves. Refusing grants and donations to support their art ventures assures their artistic freedom.

 

A drawing and collage of the "Valley Curtain" by Christo, 1971, 71 cm x 56 cm

 

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always insisted that their work is about aesthetic impact, and not laced with deep, intellectual meaning.

Their installations allow us to see familiar landscapes in new ways. Art critic David Bourdon has described Christo’s wrappings as a “revelation through concealment.” The temporary nature of their art has much in common with Tibetan sand paintings or an ephemeral Andy Goldsworthy sculpture. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s installations don’t generate a permanent, lasting artifact, but a fleeting experience for all who are lucky enough to encounter their work. It’s as much about process as it is about the final product (and the “process” includes navigating the red tape of environmental studies, government permits, etc.)

“I am an artist, and I have to have courage…,” says Christo, “Do you know that I don’t have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they’re finished. Only the preparatory drawings, and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain.”

 

Jeanne-Claude and Christo

 

 

Christo, "Over The River" project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado (Photo Wolfgang Volz, 2007)

 

Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 at age 74. Christo is proceeding with plans for their next installation, Over the River. For this piece, Christo intends to suspend 5.9 miles of silvery, luminous fabric panels high above the Arkansas River along a 42-mile stretch of the river between Salida and Cañon City in south-central Colorado.

For a closer look at the Valley Curtain check out the documentary film, Christo’s Valley Curtain by David and Albert Maysles, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. You can also watch segments of the film online.

 

A photo of the "Valley Curtain" by Christo

 

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By | 2016-11-11T21:53:20+00:00 02.01.12|Found, Greatest Hits, Images|2 Comments

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.

2 Comments

  1. Kathryn February 1, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Thanks Michelle. Just looked at the first 9 minutes of the curtain video shot the year before i was born. The cast is so unlikely:construction workers,artists,cigarettes,golfers in pastel clothing and those incredible rock formations. That view does deserve a curtain, and i’m sure it made people pay attention who wouldn’t ordinarily do so. Guess this is what art can do: make the unlikely happen, and wake us up in the process. I would imagine that he expected the curtain to be blown away–sooner than later–and maybe that prompted some to look at what it had partly covered anew. Thanks for posting.

  2. Charles March 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I don’t suppose you’d care to mention that Christo’s awful project involves drilling 9000 six inch diameter and 30ft deep holes along the pretty Arkansas river? Or that it will impeed local traffic for the three year construction and deconstruction period? Or that it will disturb and likely harm the local big horn sheep population? Or that the overwhelming majority of locals, and the majority of the Colorado population, don’t want it?

Comments are closed.