Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Art and Pizza

I should really be in bed, but I'm on a good night high and wanted to write about it because I will have forgotten most of what I haven't already forgotten by morning. I need some memory work.

My bff from high school Becky, asked if I wanted to go with her to a lecture by the artist Christo at the University of Utah. I won't pretend that I knew who she was talking about right away, but if you don't know him by name, you might know some of his work. He and his wife (who died in 2009) have been doing temporary installation art for 50 years.

Most of their works involve large pieces of fabric draped or covering things. The most recent one in the US was The Gates in Central Park.

He is currently working on the approval process for Over the River in Colorado which will be six miles of fabric suspended above the Arkansas River.

He is supposed to find out this month if they are approved to go through with the next steps in making it happen, hoping for completion in 2014. If it happens, I will do everything I can to go see it.

Christo went through a slide show of several works and explained the process that they go through. Most projects go through several phases of denial before getting permission to go forward. The Over the River project has been in the works for 18 years. But that's not even the longest. A project in Europe took over 26 years to get approved and went through two mayors being assassinated before there was one that would give the go ahead. He pointed out that the assassinations had nothing to do with his group. The process for getting a work approved is extremely political. The Over the River project has even involved a specific chapter being added to the Bureau of Land Management code book specifically dealing with art, because no one knew how to address the situation.

I wasn't expecting them to allow photos, which they did during the Q&A section, or I would have brought my nice camera. This was the best I could do, but we did have good seats.

I could write a lot about what he talked about, but would probably be more than people would want to read, and its late so I'll just touch on a few points that stuck out to me. I wish I'd had a tape recorder so I could remember it all, but I probably wouldn't be able to understand most of it. For someone that has lived in the US since 1964, the guy has a very strong accent.

First it was very touching every time he mentioned his wife, and partner Jeanne-Claude. Someone asked how they were able to work together everyday and the first thing he said was "love". He talked about their different personalities that complimented each other even if they argued a lot about projects, but said that Jeanne-Claude would always answer that question with "If Christo had been a dentist, I would have become a dentist." If was very easy to see the combined passion they had for their work. And even if I didn't know much about the guy before tonight, its easy to become very interested in someone who has such a passion for their work.

They do not do any commission pieces or accept any grant money or outside funding. All of their projects are funded through the sale of their art. They did not want to ever be influenced by someone else's ideas or visions for their projects. He mentioned that he could tell you a story about every piece they have done and the process of inspiration to do them.

One person asked if there were any pieces that he wished could have lasted longer and stayed up. (they average being up for two weeks) He said no. He said that they reason they are special is because they are temporary. That there is a sense when you are there that you will never experience this again, and no one will. There are pictures and videos from each of the pieces, but it will never be experienced in that way again. That is one of the reasons they are so moving in person. And the reason I am now very eager to watch the progress of the Colorado project.

The last question of the night was a student who asked what advice he had for young artists. Christo said he could not give him advice on art. He said that he never accepted an invitation to be an art juror because he never felt that he was in a place to judge art. He talked about how art should be something that you do because you need to. For you. That if other people enjoy your art, that is a great bonus. But the point of making art should be what you get out of it. The only advice he could give him was to do what you are passionate about, but that no one else can help you know what that is.

Afterward while Becky and I were talking Becky, who is a high school photography teacher, said that her students really struggle when she asks them to do something new that is out of the ordinary. They want to know why, or what they will get out of it. They want an explanation for everything. They don't seem to understand doing something for just the experience itself. Those thoughts really stuck with me tonight. The idea of doing something just for the joy you get out of it, and doing something just for the experience of going through it, and just seeing what happens. I think those are ideas that need to be in my life more.

After the lecture we walked across campus and got pizza at The Pie. I've never been there before and I think I have a new favorite pizza place. Awesome. And the one we went to is a cool underground bar with walls covered in graffiti.

I think often that I would be happier living in Salt Lake. And then I convince myself that its just a perception and it wouldn't be that different. And then I go do something there and realize, no, its just a cooler place than Utah County.

Cheers to a night of old friends, good food and inspiration to experience life.


Britta said...

I think it makes a huge difference to hear from an artist about their work - it gives you a personal connection instead of doing a complete interpretation on your own. I remember when the NYC installation was up - I wish I had been able to see it.

I can't believe anyone in Utah hasn't been to The Pie by the U - if you haven't, you have to go! It's awesome pizza and you can't beat the atmosphere - the one in Ogden is great food but it just looks like any other pizza place.

Marty Wombacher said...

That pizza place looks a little like the Mars Bar! I liked this line: "He talked about how art should be something that you do because you need to."

How true that is! Nice post!

the Lady said...

Fascinating, Kari.
I loved reading about Christo's views on art, life, and love. I've never heard of him before or his work and am intrigued. The Over the River project looks amazing.

If Steph and I ever moved back to Utah, we'd pick Salt Lake in a heartbeat and we'd want to live in the avenues.