Do you remember The Gates, the art installation that featured a series of orange fabric drapes hung from huge frames in New York’s Central Park years ago?
It was a slightly weird and compelling project that covered 23 miles of the park’s walkways in 2005. The creators, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, were credited with bringing more than $250 million into the city’s economy by drawing spectators to the see it for themselves.
Jeanne-Claude died yesterday. She was 74 and apparently suffered a brain aneurysm. She and her husband were local celebrities whose artwork, which consisted of wrapping famous buildings in fabric, was known around the world.
The Gates project actually inspired me to paint. Well, a painting of The Gates project, whose price kept going up and up and up during a conversation with the artist, inspired me to paint. Beneath the finish of my biggest painting (which you can see in a gallery on this site) is a series of failed attempts at different styles and techniques until I found my “voice”. Once I did, I didn’t even care if anyone else liked it. I loved doing it and when I was in the zone, it felt like I was flying. When it appealed to others I was pleasantly surprised.
Art is an expression by the artist for its own sake, in my humble opinion. Or as Andy Warhol said in a plaque I have hung above my easel: “art is what you can get away with”. Describing Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s project, The Gates, makes it sound airy fairy and very strange. But seeing it was another thing altogether. It was strikingly beautiful and inspirational to me.