Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Gates

Have you ever tried to explain a piece of art to someone? It depends upon the work, itself, what you would say, or how you might explain it. I know a little about art, but not enough to explain one of the most beautiful works of art I ever saw. It was called The Gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and it was displayed for 16 days in February 2005.

A new book by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan does a wonderful job of shedding light on the work of Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude. We learn of their European background and how World War II shaped their young lives; his in Bulgaria, hers in Paris. The art developed over time from wrapping up small objects all the way to encasing islands in Biscayne Bay, Florida.

Every project begins with drawings by Christo. The Gates began in 1979, but New York City had to approve the project because it was going to be outdoors in Central Park. It took 26 years for the project to be approved and it transformed Central Park. I remember taking the train to NYC to see it. My husband and I walked up to the park from Grand Central Station. Crowds filled the sidewalks. Before we knew it, we were swept up into the park with the crowd, our eyes drawn to the bright orange (salmon) color and flapping fabric over our head. We were part of the art experience as we walked through the park, around the lake, and over the rocks.

This experience is vividly remembered because of the book Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Through the Gates and Beyond. The photographs are stunning and reminds me of the wonderful day when I saw The Gates. What is art? I couldn’t explain it, but this book will help young people understand this beautiful piece of art! ~Joyce Laiosa

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