I’m ready. It never occurred to me that such a day might come, yet here it is. And I’m ready.
Decades ago, still in Vancouver in an art history class at community college, when I was still a stunned young woman barely ricocheted out of my teens, I learned about Christo and Jeanne Claude. More importantly, I learned about Surrounded Islands. It was between my many trips to Miami where I frequently traveled to see my father back then. That day in that classroom far away from the bay, with a football coach improbably turned art history teacher, something about Surrounded Islands connected into me deeply, and it’s never left.
If you’ve ever been in any one of the places I’ve lived since then, you’ve seen on my walls blown up copies of one or another aerial view of Biscayne Bay dotted with the distinct pink fabric surrounding 11 green tree-ringed islands that scatter in an irregular and elongated arc down the bay. If then I lived where I do now, I would see that pink from my deck, and kitchen and bedroom windows, an astonishing fact this long-lived connection now manifests.
Tonight I’m going to listen to Christo talk about the Surrounded Islands. Jeanne Claude died in 2009, and so Christo now represents their work alone. While I’m over the moon about being in the same room with this artist, surrounded, yes surrounded, with the artifacts of this important work, I will not try to speak to him. Being there is enough.
If I’m honest, though, it’s actually this: four days ago I came into contact with another artist whose work has been important to me, whose work has touched me deeply, too; whose work I experienced a few years ago, at a time when I really needed it. But the exchange I had with this artist four days ago was jarring, and I was shocked by the taught tone they used to share an arrogant point of view. I was put off by a person who utterly lacked in graciousness.
Idols fall, I’m told. And though I haven’t idolized Christo and the other – it’s not really my style – I admire their work. In their productions I see propositions for engagement, viewpoints about how we might live amidst each other here on earth. This matters to me. So, intentionally or not, I look for resonance between work and words. It matters to me. And a breach in integrity is telling, too much so, though I can’t quite tell you what it tells me.
So, after a small lesson learned and a disappointment endured, tonight I’m content to hold myself in quiet, hugging close to what remains of Surrounded Islands there on the walls in rooms other than my own, rooms beside Biscayne Bay, right down the way from me. Thick in connection, I will protect.
PS: This is the outfit I’ve made for tonight. Mountains on the jacket, for Vancouver. Abstracted islands on water for the skirt. And on the t-shirt, buttons brought to me from France by a colleague, scattered across the front in the pattern of Surrounded Islands.
PPS: I did speak to him. I asked a question, as SO many of us did. He was gracious and warm, and keen to connect with us all. I was not disappointed. He is loved. And he loves back.
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