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.
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 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.
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