So many writings never posted. This I wrote in August, but I post today as Christo died this past Sunday. RIP.
The quest for the “authentic” started in college. It was my senior year. Like most of us, college comes too early. Whose “genius” plan was this? Why do we do this to our youth?
We have NO idea what we want. How can we? Our lives up until that moment were “scheduled.” We went to school, we went to “after school,” we did homework, we went to bed to wake up and start it all over again. How is that preparation for a $300,000 decision?!
I choose my school on the weather, how did you choose?
Turns out the weather is not the way to choose a school. My school didn’t even have an education major. I had zero clue. I didn’t even know it didn’t, because I didn’t know to look.
I “did” college and that was “playing” college. I took “Rocks for Jocks” to get my science credit and I was good at science. I didn’t need to, but “geology 1” was a definite “A.” So you took “Rock for Jocks.” You did it for the “A” and the play. Less work, more play.
All of “us” did it. I put “us” in quotes as I always wonder what the other 1,000’s of people at Duke took. I orbited in a small homogenous sect. We played to win, not to learn. We played to play some more. Less time on books, more time sitting around frat houses and sleeping. Sleeping I recall being a huge calendar item.
And the “us” dictated my path. I originally came to Duke for its Af Am program. Sorry African American History program, but quickly changed out of that major. It was clear that Duke ran in groups. I was without my parents for the first time, I was “alone” and all I wanted was to feel connected, a little less homesick. So I found “my people.” I hung with the Jewish group. The east coast Jewish group. The sorority scene, I do like to party as party usually infers some sort of dancing. Or in the case of the Jewish boys frat scene, jumping up and down to songs in boy huddles. What is that about?! Too afraid to take to the floor and hold their own?
Everyone in college seemed to “clique off.”
I guess that explains the cafeteria phenomena happening across schools. Kids self-segregating. Kids separating into groups. They are just looking to connect and feel a little less alone. Trying to find “their people.”
So senior year, I take an art history course and I meet them. I actually did SEE them once on the train going to DC. I didn’t speak to them. It was a difficult time and now one of them is dead so it will be impossible but to you…Christo and Jeane Claude.
Christo & Jeane Claude,
I have a lot to thank you for. You made me do strange things all my life. You made me see life a bit differently. When I learned about you I was a bit like “huh? Why would anyone do that?”
You both made zero sense. You “wrapped things.” You took established buildings that were intricate in detail and usually held political significance and wrapped them. All that detail/ color went away, it became a shape. That is an odd choice of time.
But I got it. You made me look at everyday objects that I just pass and rethink them. You took my ordinary experience and made it extraordinary. And you were a team. There is no Christo without Jeane Claude and vice versa.
And what you do is HARD.
Your art takes years and is political. Unlike most artists who can have a studio and work at their pace and vision, your work involves us, the environment. It is also so political.
My favorite part was how you self fund your large installation works. It was never about the money. I bought one of the lithographs you sell to pay for it. I bought one for the Gates. I did! It was with my first paycheck. I wanted to be part of it.
I love how to experience your art, you had to be in it. And I loved that you couldn’t own it. It belongs to all of us. A shared experience.
Your work got me into installation art, which led to loads of incredible sights and memories.
But you two were the first of what authentic looked like to be. You were the first. The bar was high so thank you for setting a high bar, because I took it seriously. I lived life HARD. I kept pushing and worked hard. Hard for a bigger good. Something that no one could “own” but had to experience.
So that’s where the whole thing started. A picture on a screen in a class that I discovered by accident my senior year. I wasn’t “supposed” to take that class. It wasn’t part of the plan.
My mother is going to love this. I’m going throw in some Yiddish.
Life is unpredictable, and unexpected changes will inevitably occur. “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish adage meaning, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.”