31 May 2020
The brilliant visionary, creator, and artist Christo passed away today. He and his late wife Jeanne-Claude ushered in an era of larger-than-life greatness, defying traditionally accepted parameters of possibilities. Indeed, their creative legacy offered the world tangible proof of what creative potentiality can bring to life.
Beyond all imagined possibilities, Christo and Jeanne-Claude proved how art is relevant at the global level. Beyond borders of geography, art unites, empowers, inspires, and reflects where we are, how far we have progressed, and how much further we have yet to go. In light of the current political climate and the global pandemic, we have very far to go.
The forced quarantine due to COVID-19 has spread a profound sense of sadness, despair, and helplessness. As suffocating as it is to wear a mask, especially for an asthmatic with claustrophobia, it is even more so to wake up each day with increasing death tolls at city, state, national, and international levels. It is even more disappointing to discern a complete lack of partisan cooperation from our leaders, not even to save human lives.
As if the global pandemic is not enough, we have to deal with opportunistic looters, thieves, and anarchists breaking laws, destroying our cherished architecture and sculptures, and trashing our streets under the guise of political protest for their civil rights. They do not honor George Floyd. They do not honor the civil rights movement. Instead, they enslave the world under a pernicious net of treachery, violence, destruction, and chaos. By the way, COVID-19 does not disappear just because looters want to steal and destroy property.
It is said that bad things come in three. It seems bitterly fitting that Christo has passed. He and Jeanne-Claude defied limits. They turned their artistically visionary dreams into reality for the world to see, experience, and share in collectively as human beings.
I had the honor of walking through The Gates at Central Park in 2005. Central Park will always hold a special place in my heart. If you have ever lived in New York, truly lived there for a considerable number of years, you just know it will get in your blood. It gets you and you get it and it is a lifetime love affair. Nothing compares. Central Park is at the heart of that feeling.
I knew I was experiencing something spectacularly greater than me as I stood in The Gates. It was as humbling as it was beautiful. Christo and Jeanne-Claude made Central Park all the more dear to me seeing it accented with those brilliant saffron fabric panels.
I never met them. If I were to send a message to them in heaven above, I would extend them my gratitude. Gratitude for reinforcing hope, reaffirming all that is good, and repurposing art and its relevance to this world, its people, and all that needs to be saved.
Our leaders would do well to take a nod from artists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They had visions cast into projects. They used art to realize those projects. They did not stop until the project was completed. And on they went, full steam ahead, to their next project. The world was their canvas. Beauty, greatness, hope, inspiration, and empowerment were the denouement of their seemingly impossible creations.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, you amazingly brilliant genius-artists, I am forever grateful to you both.