My friend Beth alerted me via Twitter that Jean Claude (of Christ and Jean Claude fame) has died. This made me feel very sad and sentimental because I was working right near Central Park when their famous art installation, "The Gates," was up.
I remember when I started seeing those orange pillars. I would get out of the subway every day, the C or E line at 8th Ave by the Natural History Museum, and walk along the road not looking ahead, but to my right and wondering what the hell was going on.
Even after someone explained to me that this was a very famous art installation that would make the whole world pay attention, I still didn't get it. Some days, during lunch, I walked around under the flappy fabric and tried to decide if it felt like art.
The orange fabric was not orange, but saffron, even though all the saffron I had ever used was bright yellow. People all around me kept whipping out little scissors and snipping off pieces of the fabric to keep as mementos, something so they could say one day "I was there! And look! I took part of this thing with me!" Corey was working as a bike messenger in Manhattan then, and he sometimes rode to meet me for a sandwich. We'd sit on a rock in the sun and look at the flappy gates. He could reach the fabric from the seat of his beater bike, could reach right on up and slap it as he rode beneath if he wanted to.
The more I read about JC and C's work, the more I looked at those fabulous aerial images of their vision made real, the more I started to think about my place in the world. And every day when I saw those gates, I was experiencing something. Some days, I thought about Aslan's gate from The Last Battle. Other days I just thought about how amazing it was to work right near Central Park, for a rugby magazine no less. Other times, I just thought that weird orange fabric looked really peaceful and nice flapping along in the breeze.
I think that might be what art is for, right? To help you experience something. To give you a moment of mindfulness in a crazy, hectic New York day.
I feel really sad for Christo. She lost her love and her other half and her muse even. I wonder what she will do with her grief, if it will consume her so much she'll wrap the world in black just to show that we are all sad with her.
UPDATE: As anonymous points out, I have foolishly mixed up the genders of Jean Claud and Christo. That was really irresponsible of me. I have no excuses. But I still feel sad that Christo lost a loved one and I still feel moved by my experience with The Gates!