Christo's Umbrellas: Visual Art/Performance/Ritual/Real Life on a Grand Scale Author(s): Robert Findlay and Ellen

Walterscheid Source: TDR (1988-), Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 74-97 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: Accessed: 08/10/2010 19:23
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Life VisualArt/Performance/Ritual/Real on a GrandScale

Robert and Findlay EllenWalterscheid

Ellen Walterscheid RobertFindlay have been colleagues companions and and since I983. Whatfollows is their multiple reading of Christo's umbrellas project. on Walterscheid a worker/monitor theproject; was Findlay was a spectator/witness. At dawn on 9 October 1991, the artist Christo saw his I,340 blue umbrellas unfurl over 12 miles in the lush green hills and rice paddies of Ibaraki, Japan. His enormous artwork, The Umbrellas, Joint Project Japan for and USA, planned over more than six years, had finally blossomed. Christo then jetted from Japan to southern California and, again at dawn on 9 October 1991, he saw his 1,760 yellow umbrellas open over I8 miles of the burt-out umber hills and valleys of Tejon Pass between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. After the opening, the project was officially retitled The Umbrellas, JapanUSA I984-9I. The project came to fruition on two continents with the help of more than 2,000 collaborators, and, before it closed on 27 October 1991, more than 3 million spectators viewed and interacted with it. Though Christo is considered a leading figure of the international avantgarde, his work is uncharacteristicallypopular with the public at large. Though few members of the "art world" would deny the enormous popularity of Christo's installations with the general public, some, according to William Grimes in the New York Times (1991), consider Christo "the Norman Rockwell of Conceptual Art": His [Christo's] popularity is undeniable [. . .]. And like the late illustrator, he has put his stamp on the public mind so successfully that a building wrapped for renovation often brings thoughts of the School of Christo. The designation "conceptual artist" rankles Christo, who argues that he doesn't simply conceivehis projects by making pretty and realistically accurate landscape drawings in his studio; he realizes his projects by building
The Drama Review 37, no. I (TI37), I993


Christo 75

them in reality.He prefersthe label "environmental artist,"as long as that term implies that he works in both urbanand ruralenvironmentsand that he never works in "deserted and places"but ratherthose "already prepared used by people" (Christo 1991). Beforethe Umbrellas
Born Christo Javacheff on 13 June 1935 in Bulgaria, Christo came from a well-to-do family steeped in the arts. Before her marriage, his mother served as secretary of the Sofia Fine Arts Academy and, as a result, befriended many exiled Russian artists. Early on Christo learned of the poetry and plays of futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky, the constructivist theatre of Vsevolod Meyerhold, the "fantastic realism" of director Yevgeny Vakhtangov, the mass spectacles of Nikolai Evreinov, the films of Sergei Eisenstein, the graphics of El Lissitzky, and works by many other Russian theatre/film/visual artists (see van der Marck I98I). Later, as van der Marck suggests, Christo was influenced by the actors and filmmakers he met in Sofia through his elder brother, who eventually became a star of Bulgarian theatre and film. Often called a conceptual/environmental artist (the correctness of this designation is highly debatable), Christo first gained critical and public attention in Paris in the early I96os. His Iron Curtain-Wall of Oil Barrels(I96I-I962), which barricaded the Rue Visconti in the heart of Paris, struck many as a political statement-an answer by an Eastern bloc emigr& to the construction of the Berlin Wall the previous year. Though Christo's art inevitably has addressed the contemporary moment, later in the I96os, '70s, and '8os, he came to be less politically obvious. He began to experiment most specifically with fabric, "wrapping" huge public buildings, monuments, bridges, and walkways in various colors of usually nylon woven material. Certainly the artist's most spectacular uses of fabric in the I970S and I980s were the projects Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colorado, 1970-72; Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, I972-76; Surrounded Islands, BiscayneBay, GreaterMiami, Florida, I980-83; and The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, I975-85. Valley Curtain used 200,000 square feet of orange nylon polyamide strung across the Grand Hogback in Rifle, Colorado. The curtain was stabilized by IIo,ooo lbs. of steel cables and 800 tons of cement. Unfortunately the curtain blew to shreds a day after it went up. But the following year Christo tried again and mounted it successfully. Running Fence was on an even larger scale: an I8-foot-high continuous ribbon of white fabric (supported by steel poles and cables) skimming over nearly 25 miles through Sonoma and Marin counties, California, and then diving into the Pacific Ocean. SurroundedIslands was pink woven polypropylene fabric spread around II islands in Miami's Biscayne Bay. Christo's wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris with 440,000 square feet of golden fabric allowed car, river, and pedestrian traffic to continue to use the bridge.

The Umbrellas took more than six years of planning by Christo and Jeanne-Claude Christo-Javacheff. Born Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon in Paris on 13 June 1935, the same day as Christo himself was born in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, Jeanne-Claude met Christo in Paris when he was commissioned to paint her mother's portrait. Married just as Christo was gaining some notoriety, they have a son in his early thirties, Cyril (born I960), who is a



i. Christosells thepre-



studies plans and liminary in to of hisprojects order his The finance endeavors. saleof thisearlyumbrella



poet. Despite their contact with enormous sums of money in developing their projects, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have lived and worked at the same address in New York's Soho district for the past 28 years in relatively modest circumstances. They have no second home. Jeanne-Claude plays an essential role in Christo's art: as his business manager and art dealer, she attends public hearings and lobbying sessions with Christo; raises the money for the projects by selling Christo's drawings, collages, early artworks, and lithographs; and manages the payroll for the projects. Even though he does most of his work alone in his studio, Christo is the epitome of the collaborative artist: he works with close associates over many years; with workers over perhaps a few months; with spectators/witnesses over a few weeks. In addition to Jeanne-Claude, support for Christo as artist comes from several close, paid advisors. Among these are construction engineer August L. Huber III, general manager of The Umbrellason both continents; Henry Scott Stokes, project director in Japan; Thomas M.R. Golden, project director in the United States; Wolfgang Volz, project photographer; and Masahiko Yanagi, project historian.

Christo 77

As in severalearlierprojects,this centralteam came together at various and points over an extendedperiod to work out the parameters logisticsof The Umbrellas. Christo, Stokes, and Golden, for example, had to secure permits from 478 private landowners in Ibarakiand Californiaas well as from 44 government agencies in both countries, 24 in Californiaalone. The team also developed contracts with 1 different manufacturers 5 in Details for filming and photographcountriesto make the 3,I00 umbrellas. ing the project also had to be worked out. Christo projects have been filmed by Albert and David Maysles (who made the documentaryGimme Shelter about the Rolling Stones). Typically,a largebook filled with many of photographs Volz also appearsafterthe realization each project.Even by for traffic control, among other tasks, were handled by arrangements Christoand membersof this centraladvisoryteam. Various members of this group also were responsiblefor testing protonel of the National ResearchCouncil of Canadain Ottawa to withstand gusts of up to 65 mph when open and IIo mph when closed. A press release of 20 September 1991 states: "Each umbrellais filed, recording the verticaland horizontalangles of the slope, the base condition, the bearing and distanceto benchmarks adjacentumbrellas." and Despite the vastness of detail his projects require, Christo remains intensely involved with their progresson a dailybasis.He andJeanne-Claude attendedhours of public hearingsand meetings with government officials to get permission to plant the umbrellasin Japan and California.Christo visited and discussed his project with each of the 478 landownerswhose land would be involved. He andJeanne-Claude also met with the companies that manufactured umbrellasand attendedtesting sessions for prothe totype umbrellas. Christo personallyselected the location for each of the 3,I00 umbrellas. artistran up and down every hill and Accordingto Huber, the 56-year-old peak choosing the preciseplantingsfor each of the umbrellas: He didn'tdo it like you or I would do it. He would get halfway down a mountainand look over his shoulderand decide that he wanted to move one or add one, so he'd run back up the hill. The engineerwho did the actualsurveyingof the positionsafterChristo looked at them addedup the verticaldifferencefrom one to the other and the sequence that he looked at them and figuredout that it was the equivalentof climbingMount Everesttwice. (1991) In addition, the Christo team had to process applications from approximately2,500 potentialworkersto install,monitor, and eventuallydismantle the umbrellas. Each worker in the United States,for example, was paid at least minimum wage ($4.25 per hour) and was protectedby workers'compensation. The Umbrellas,Christo'smost expensive project yet, cost $26 million. It used 4.5 million squarefeet of nylon fabric,almost I miles of steel poles, 73.5 miles of aluminumribs, 35 miles of aluminumstruts,and 2,000 gallons of blue and yellow paint.After the closing of The Umbrellas, materiall als were scheduled to be recycled: the paint to be scrapedoff aluminum parts,which would be melted down and reused;the steel bases to become scrapmetal or bases for satellitedishes; and the fabricdestinedfor erosion or flood control (Christo 1991; and Goodwin 1991). Finally,the plan included restorationof the land in both Japan and Californiato its original statebefore The Umbrellas.
types of the octagonal umbrellas (each 19' 8
'/4" x

28' 5") in the wind tun-


Findlay/Walterscheid During the planning stages, Christo in his New York studio made many precise colored sketches, collages, and painted photos of how the umbrellas would look in both California and Japan. Through Jeanne-Claude's sale of such studies, the artist gains independent funds for the realization of his projects. Inevitably at the conclusion of every project, Christo and JeanneClaude owe considerable bank debts, which they pay off in time. Christo has never accepted sponsorship of any kind: no grants, foundation money, or commissions. Yet the public can view his artworks free. Thus Christo speaks of himself as different from those artists who might work in stone or gold or steel creating "permanent art." The ephemerality of his art, as he suggests, "is really a profound challenge to the immortality of art [. . .]. All my projects are about freedom. They cannot be bought; they cannot be commercialized" (Christo and Christo-Javacheff 1992).

The UmbrellasShow
The Umbrellasshow did not open on 8 October I991 as planned but rather on the 9th, because of a typhoon approaching the coast of Japan. After the typhoon passed, Christo saw his blue Japanese umbrellas open the next day at dawn and then, later, he saw the yellow umbrellas open in California at dawn of the same day. The sun had traveled west around the world, circling from Japan across Asia, the Soviet Union (which still existed at that time), Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, the East Coast of the United States, the Midwest, and finally southern California. Christo had raced east to once again greet the sun at dawn. On opening day his artwork in the United States alone was covered by AP, UPI, Reuters, magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and Life, and all the major TV networks, including CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, PBS, and the BBC, as well as

2. Christo's earlierwork, Running Fence (I972I976), created afence of i8foot-high white fabric that ranfor nearly25 miles in California.(Photo byJeanne-Claude)

Christo 79

Germanand JapaneseTV. Estimatessuggest that more than three million spectatorson both continentsflocked to and interactedwith the show and talkedwith Christo'smonitor/workers about the project. The artworkstayed open to visitors 24 hours a day. In both California andJapan,spectators broughtpicnic lunches, which they ate underthe umbrellas.One couple in Californiagot marriedunder an umbrella;another couple was chased away by police late one night for having sex under an umbrella.An atmosphereof joy and connection prevailed,not only among the crews who raised and monitored the umbrellasbut also with those who observedthem. On Saturday October 1991 at approximately 26 5:00 p.m., nearingsunset, one of the umbrellasalong scenic Digier Road in California(one of Christo's favorite vistas) was dislodged from its moorings by freak high winds that observersreportedcame from a swift and sudden dark cloud. The umbrellaflew throughthe air like a kite-448 lbs.-and killed a 33-yearold spectator,Lori Rae Keevil-Mathews,of Camarillo,California.Christo, in Japan,immediatelyorderedall umbrellas closed on both continents(four days early) and flew to California,where he held a press conference expressinghis sadnessover the accidentaldeath. The day after the woman in Californiawas buried, another shock occurred.A Christo worker in Japan,5 -year-oldMasaakiNakamura,died of electrocution.The crane he was working on to dismantlean umbrellain Japanwas hit by a flashof electricityfrom a 65,ooo-volthigh-tensionline. The Umbrellas as Performance Christo objects to the notion of his art being comparedto theatre.In a When discussingmy project,not only The Umbrellas, usuallythe art criticis very little awarethat one of the most important historian/art of partsof my work is that nothing, nothing, nothing my projectis make-believe.It is so far away from theatre.We have 2,000 people working on the project.I don't like to have 2,000 workersto look nice in the photography the movie, but becausewe need 2,000 and workers. But The Umbrellas seems to have some performative elements.There was an enormoussetting:the compellingspectacleof yellow and blue umbrellas planted in the contrastingenvironments of two continents. There were roles and actions to be performed:2,000 workers raisedand removed the umbrellas,while some served as monitors interactingwith the public who came to view the spectacle(workersrangedin age from teenagersto retirees in their seventies). There were costumes: the 2,000 worker/monitors wore white hardhats bearingChristo'ssignature,white tunics designedby Christo, plus their own jeans and constructionboots. Christo served both as director (regisseur) scenographer.There were techniciansand engiand neers who advisedChristo and served to bring his artisticvision to practical realization.(Christo's earliest sketches of The Umbrellas, example, for show very thin-stemmedstructures-unfeasible from an engineeringpoint of view-which Christo'sengineersconvinced him to redesign.)There was a publicist who put out press releasesand dealt directly with those who would write about the project (Jeanne-Claude). There were spectator/witnesses (more than three million) who viewed the umbrellas, sat under with worker/monitors. them, took millions of pictures,and interacted

telephone interview of 19 February 1992, he said:

3. Landowner Roy Bakman, in his home near Gorman, CA, listensto his Christodescribe plan for The Umbrellas. The umbrellas Mr. on Bakman'sland remained for a three-week period. (Photo by WolfgangVolz)

Christo's awareness of theatre, particularly that of the Russian Golden Age of the I92os and 1930s, already has been noted by Jan van der Marck. The highly experimental work of Meyerhold, Mayakovsky, Vakhtangov, Evreinov, Tairov, and others was based in fiction, to be sure, but such directors also experimented with the most advanced theatrical techniques and forms of their time: constructivism, biomechanics, time study, fantastic realism, synthetic realism, mass spectacle. As van der Marck suggests, Christo's roots lie in such fertile projects as Evreinov's mass spectacle The Stormingof the WinterPalace(7 November I920). In this project, Evreinov developed a fictionalized restaging of the beginning of the Russian Revolution on the exact site in St. Petersburg where the event had occurred three years earlier. The Stormingof the WinterPalace used a cast of more than 8,000 soldiers, sailors, workers, and actors. An orchestra of 500 certainly was a make-believe/fiction, in the sense that no orchestra had accompanied what had happened three years before. But the firing of guns by the cruiser Auroraanchored in the Neva River must have added a touch of reality. More than oo00,000 spectators attended the oneday event. Evreinov had developed an enormous spectacle with thousands functioning at the level of performer and many more thousands functioning as spectator/witnesses. As regisseur, presumably with many assistants and advisors, Evreinov brought his mass spectacle to a realization beyond theatre. In addition to being aware of the Russian Golden Age directors and their productions, Christo spent I956 in Prague hanging out at the theatre of the famous Czech experimental director E.F. Burian. Before World War II, Burian had worked on a small stage but used enormous projections of images behind his actors. His productions prophesied the work of Josef Svoboda after the war. So Christo clearly has a few roots in the theatre.

4. Christoand engineers Simon Chaput (left) and VaheAprahamian(cenThe Umbrellasas Ritual ter)spent an extensive Anthropologists suggest that ritual is efficacious-that ritual has real re- amountof timefinding sults in the real world (see for example Schechner I976). Christo's Umbrel- placement sitesfor the las is not so easily identifiable as ritual, since its real effects cannot easily be umbrellas southern in measured in a society or group at large. Its real effects in the real world are California.The opening more easily identified at the level of individual participants. And certainly took six of the umbrellas what may seem efficacious to one individual may exist simply as a pleasant years of planning. (Photo or bad artistic experience for another. But through reports of those who by WolfgangVolz) participated in the project, either as workers or as spectator/witnesses, something at least bordering on efficacy seems to have emerged. Most people are skeptical of speaking publicly of their profound and intimate experiences of artworks that changed their lives, artworks that are efficacious. Such statements often seem self-indulgent, sentimental, overly subjective, too emotional, resembling the smug accounts of TV evangelists who give the impression they have talked with God by telephone earlier in the day. When one speaks personally of an efficacious experience arising from confrontation with an artwork, hopefully one does not sound like a person in the supermarket tabloids who was whisked away for a time on a UFO. An efficacious experience occurs in the real world. It is a real event in the mind of the experiencer. Such experiences do occur. They are at least "virtual realities." No very adequate critical/theoretical language has yet been invented to deal with efficacious experience. The distinguished Brechtian scholar/translator/critic Eric Bentley probably did the best job of it in his open letter to Jerzy Grotowski after seeing a performance of Apocalypsis cumfiguris. Bentley's open letter was a long review. But at the heart of it stood this statement:



During this show, Apocalypsis, somethinghappenedto me. I put it this becauseit was somethingvery personalthat happened. personally About halfwaythroughthe play I had a quite specificillumination. A messagecame to me-from nowhere, as they say-about my privatelife and self. This messagemust stay private,to be true to itself, but the fact that it arrivedhas public relevance,I think, and I should publicly add that I don't recallthis sort of thing happeningto me in the theatre before. (1969) Bentley uses the language of first-personautobiographicalreportage, Neverthethough he does not elaboratespecificallyon his "illumination." less, his approachand languagesuggest a beginning step in reportingsuch experiences. Our individualreportsof the Umbrellas experiencefollow.

An Insider's View
As a journalist,I'm supposedto be objective about what I write. But in early I990 I wrote an articleabout Augie Huber, a KansasCity construction engineer and Christo's general manager for The Umbrellas (Walterscheid I990). During our interview,Augie told me all about Christo:how he funds his projectshimself, how he spends years working out construction detailsand getting governmentpermits,how he employs hundredsof workers to erect his huge artworks.Here was an artistwho achieved his impossibly large-scalevision with integrity and meticulousness. And the end productwas a thing of breathtaking beauty. I privatelydecided:Screw observation.I want to help put up those umbrellas. So in late September 199i I set out from Kansas City in my aging Chrysler E-Class for the Umbrellas project site in southern California. I packed my car with sunscreen, trail mix, and, as instructedby a mailing from the Christo camp, "heavywork shoes throughwhich snakebites cannot penetrate." At 29, maybe I'm too old for something like this, I told myself as the miles rolled away beneath my car. Relatives and friends I stayed with on the way nodded their heads politely as I tried to explain my mission. "I understandwhatChristo wants to do," said one well-meaningfriend, "but Once I got to the project site, though, I found kindredspirits.Most of the more than 9oo workers there came from California,but many others traveledthousandsof miles for the chance to open Christo'sumbrellas. On orientationday we gatheredin the big dirt parkinglot in FrazierParkthat served as the check-in area. Despite dust and wind and 95-degree heat, a feeling of friendlyexcitement prevailed.We filled out W-4 tax forms and received photo ID cards,then shuffledinto a big white tent to hear orientation speeches from Christo and his advisors.I saw Christo standingquietly for a time in one corer, wearinghis customaryfadedjeans and work boots and a white floppy hat, watchingthe proceedingsintently. The next morningat dawn I met my crew: five women and five men in their mid-twentiesto early fifties. Among us were two artists,an actor, a real estate entrepreneur,a community planner, and an administrator for man named nonprofit groups. Our crew leader was a walrus-mustached

Christo 83 PatrickTiemey, a 4I-year-old architectfrom North Miami Beach landscape who had worked on Christo's Surrounded Islands and The Pont Neuf Pat Wrapped. issued us hardhats, specialshirts,waterjugs, and tools. Then we boardedthe van that took us to our worksite. Our job was to erect I9 umbrellas-less than one percent of the total project-high atop the Tejon Pass mountainsin an area known as Grapevine Peak. When we got to our assignedhilltop we found the umbrellas lying on their sides shrouded in gray plastic. They'd been dropped onto the hillsidesby helicoptera few days earlier.Our instructions were to position each umbrellaat a presetsteel base, unscrewa plasticbase cover, slide the umbrella pole into a hinged base sleeve, and bolt the pole to the sleeve. Then came the fun part:raisingthe 20-foot-longumbrellaIwo Jimastyle until it stood upright-not an easy maneuver on some of the steep slopes Christochose for his huge brushstrokes. We cheered after we raised our first umbrella.But by IO:OO a.m. the cool morningbreeze gave way to Indiansummerheat, and we focused on doing our work as quicklyand efficientlyas possible.Insteadof moving in a pack from umbrellato umbrella,some crew membersstayed behind to screw on the plasticbase cover while othersran aheadto get startedon the next one. Leaders startedto emerge-the physicallystrongerand more technicallyadeptmembersof the group.But Pat insistedthat everyone do each step of the job at least once. When I used a ratchetfor the firsttime in my life to tighten a large bolt, everybodyin my crew waited patientlyuntil I finished.I felt embarrassed my lack of skill, but I also felt secure within at the group. Despite our differentages, sizes, genders,personalities, levand els of expertise,what bound us togetherwas a belief in the sheer goodness

Lori 5. When33-year-old RaeKeevil-Mathews was killed hit after being by an umbrella its dislodgedfrom moorings highwinds, by theproject closed down. Herearetheremnants of thisdisheveled umbrella as the theyappeared after accident. (Photo Gene by Blevins, of courtesy the Los AngelesDaily News)



6. Crew members rotated tasks amongthe group, so that eachgot a chanceto all performaspectsleading to an inclding the "blooming" the umof brella. here Alice Cunninghamcranksopen an umbrella a "blosinto som." (Photoby Ellen Walterscheid)



of Christo's vision We instinctively gave mutual support for a profoundly personal experience. It seemed almost too good to be true. By the end of the day our sweaty, dusty crew barely had enough energy left to speak to each other. We sat exhausted on the parched grass and looked down into the valley at the hundreds of gray missiles that other crews had erected during the day. Christo's vast canvas was coming to life. To think that all these gray stalks dotting the landscape would soon flower into yellow umbrellas seemed unreal. Later, riding down the mountain in our work van, I asked members of my crew why they wanted to work on the project. Joe Murphy, a 25-yearold vagabond artist and world peace advocate from Colorado, had this to say: My first exposure to Christo was seeing a movie about RunningFence when I was younger-much younger-so I've always been familiar with his work and actually that was one of my earlier influences for being an artist. So far I'm impressed by the attention to detail that Christo has had. He's pretty much answered all my questions as far as the recycling of the materals afterwards, you know, just the awareness of the landscape and the impact on the land. The project in general I think is really wonderful, just a rea llywonderful happening. The community is just great. Everybody is here for a good purpose.' Alice Cunningham, 25, lives in Los Angeles and is trying to make a career as an actor. She signed up because she admired the way Christo pays for his projects himself As an actor I've been looking around with some dismay at my own future in my own career because so much of it is oriented around the marketplace. You know if you want to do theatre it's very hard to do theatre that's not safe, that's new, because you can't make money doing it, so we have Shakespeare festivals and The Importance Being of Earnestfor the thousandth time-not that all that stuff isn't wonderful-

Christo 85 but it's really hard to find new work. And then of course there's TV and Hollywood, and that is aimed toward making a buck too. I just was really inspired to see an artist finding ways to do what's most important to him and to do it the way he wants to do it. That's really empowering, and I guess I feel empowered being a part of it. Cooke Sunoo, 46, Hollywood project coordinator for the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, summed up his desire to work on The Umbrellasin one sentence: "I wanted an opportunity," he said, "to be a speck of paint on a masterpiece of art." At one point as we worked we saw Christo on a neighboring peak, watching another crew install an umbrella. His documentary team trailed him with their cameras. Indeed, documenting the project preoccupied a lot of us; most brought cameras in our backpacks. The real estate man in our crew brought a camcorder, and at one point got so busy taping us that our crew chief told him to put the thing away and get back to work. We took two days to install our 19 umbrellas. But we had to wait four more days before we could open them. To everyone's dismay, we got word that a typhoon in Japan would delay the opening by at least a day. Christo, who by this time had flown to Japan, faxed a message telling the workers to be patient. Blossoming Day was to be a joyous celebration, said the fax, and the threatening weather brought no joy. Please be patient. So the crews spent a day picking up highway litter as a goodwill gesture to the surrounding community. I used the rest of my newly found free time to drive around the project site and check out the displays of kitsch blooming up and down Interstate 5. Local merchants were selling unauthorized T-shirts, watches, note cards, buttons-even a 14-karat-gold "umbrella" pin for $225. One stand offered chartreuse plastic water bottles with the words "I saw the umbrellas blossoming" emblazoned on the front.

7. All the crewsworked to together raisethe umbrellas.Ellen Walterscheid's raised crew theirumbrellas Iwo imastyle. (Photo by Ellen Walterscheid)


Findlay/Walterscheid A woman came up to me and asked where I bought the grimy shirt I was wearing, the sleeveless white tunic Christo had designed for the workers. When I explained to her that I was a Christo crew member and that the shirts weren't for sale, she looked crestfallen. "That's the only shirt I've seen around here that I halfway liked," she said and moaned. One worker I knew said he was offered $500 for his shirt but refused to sell it. Forty miles north in Bakersfield, where I was staying, people who saw me in my dusty uniform asked about the project. A mail carrier collared me on my way into the post office to ask whether the umbrella bases were permanent. I told him no. "My wife and I are going to drive down to see it this weekend," he said. "We figure it's a historic thing. After all, it costwhat?-$I million." When I told him $26 million, his eyes bugged out. Inside the post office I talked with a woman who was mailing a copy of the local newspaper's special Christo supplement to her sister in Monterey, who was coming down that weekend to see the project. "He's making a statement," she said of Christo and The Umbrellas."I think it's fantastic." Behind us in line stood a government worker named Pete Thrift who was leading a tour of visiting Brazilians for an organization called Friendship Force International of Ker County. The Brazilians told me in halting English that they'd never heard of Christo but were anxious to see the project. Pete said he hoped the project would bring Bakersfield exposure. Most people he knew were excited; his neighbor had put up umbrellas around her yard in honor of the event. At a drugstore where I was buying film, a clerk told me he thought the project was a waste of money. "I mean, a guy spending $58 million for something like that," he said, "when so many people are starving?" Then he mentioned that he planned to take his daughter on a helicopter ride over The Umbrellas that weekend. Back at my motel, I wrote a freelance dispatch about the project for the Kansas City Star (I99I). Later I got a frantic phone call from my boyfriend Bob in Kansas. His computer had just crashed. I considered telling him: "OK, your files are gone, calm down. Just think like Christo, treasure the ephemeral, don't dwell on the past." But somehow I didn't think my newly hatched philosophy would soothe the distraught voice on the other

8. Here we can see the openingof two umbrellas on concurrently "Blossoming Day," 9 October 1991. Beforethe umbrellas wereopened,a gray plastic sheathand a plasticinnerlining had to be pulledoff. (Photo by Ellen Walterscheid)

Christo 87


~ ~ !k ~ ' ~sprang ~~endi !~i to see the project. I wanted someoneis 4 j' ~ ~~~~'~~ i'i umbrella Finally, a fax arrived -' ... i .

Along with the umbrelg~9. las, vendors sellingkitsch up aroundthe sites. man was selling


dollarsto passing motorists. (Photo by Ellen ............ Walterscheid)

end of the line. So I kept quiet. Still, I was anxious for Bob to come out to see the project. I wanted someone from my "other life" to enjoy The Umbrellas with me. Finally, a fax arrived telling us the blue umbrellas of Japan were blooming. It was time. On Wednesday, October 9, our crew met on Grapevine Peak to crank open our payload. Already we could see yellow blossoms springing up below us as other crews raced around the hillside. But we had decided early on to savor our opening. Christo said the umbrellas should open at 7:30 a.m., but he didn't dictate the pace. We pulled off the gray plastic sheath of our first umbrella, then removed the clear plastic inner covering. We attached a winch to the pole and slowly started cranking. The winch mechanisms made a loud clicking sound, and the ribs of the umbrella started to rise. In less than a minute the huge canopy spread to full flower. The yellow nylon fabric shimmered in the morning sun. Each panel of the canopy billowed in the breeze. We cheered, then stood back in awe. The umbrella was beautiful, more beautiful than I had expected, more beautiful than all of Christo's colored drawings. Were we stunned by the umbrella because we planned to be stunned? No. The reality of it was truly astonishing. Richard Chon, a staff writer for the Bakersfield Californian who eloquently covered the project from start to finish, wrote in a review on opening day: We live in an age of debased spectacles, where our responses to hype have been enervated by continuous disappointment. But the umbrellas are a refreshing tonic, a case in which the preview didn't give the plot



away and, in fact, scarcelyhinted at how fabulousthe actualproduct was. The umbrellaproject'simmense scope, its charm,its protean even to the artist.Those itself, were unpredictable, abilityto transform who came up to the Tejon Passbefore the blossoming,who viewed the umbrellas their grayuprightpods and attemptedin their mind's in eye to imaginehow they would look, were shocked at how dramatically they came alive. [. . .] When their droopy wings rose slowly before snappinginto sharpplanes,one felt privilegedto be watching, as if a creature was being born before one's eyes. And when the wind blew throughtheir canopies,they seemed to respire,to vibratewith the energy of life. (1991) After we opened our last umbrella,we sat down for a picnic beneath its shade. By now the slopes below us had begun to resemblefields of giant yellow poppies. Pat asked whether anyone wanted to make a toast, but no one volunteered.Maybe we thought a toast would have been too corny. Maybe we were too tired. Maybe we alreadywere growing distantfrom each other. But perhapsthat was to be expected. The week-longjob was over. We knew we'd probablynever see each other again-unlessmaybe at Christo'snext project. Later,down on level ground, I got in my car and drove along the interstate frontage road. I was struck by the randomnessand rhythm of the I at placementof the umbrellas. felt amusedby their presenceand surprised how small the more distantones looked againstthe massivehills of Tejon Pass. I craned my neck to spot my crew's umbrellas,but I couldn't tell which ones were ours. That night Christo held a press conference at the constructionyard. I cheered along with the other workersas he hopped out of his van, newly arrived from a quick visit to Japan, wearing his jeans and construction boots. He was grinning,elated. He leaped up on a platformto addressthe crowd and thank his workers. "No sketch of mine," he said, "no drawing or collageof mine, ever can match the realthing." For four days afterthe opening I worked as a monitor on The Umbrellas. The job involved some police duties, such as telling people to put out their cigarettes(the dry grassposed a great fire hazard)and stopping curious sightseers from climbing fences onto private property. But mostly monitor duty was a chance to answer questionsand find out what people thought of the artwork. I felt like a strangehybridof museum docent, sentinel, and cult member as I talkedto delightedvisitorsas well as to skepticswho challengedme to had persuadethem that The Umbrellas any merit. (I don't know if I persuaded them-but at least they felt compelled to stop their cars.) I played for photographer countless couples and familiesposing under the umbrellas, and many people offered me food from their umbrellapicnics. One morning when it rained, all of us-monitors and visitors-stood under the to umbrellas keep dry. The people I met during monitor duty under the umbrellasremain as vivid to me as the people I worked with installingthem. There was Billie, a docent at the Newport Beach Art Museum who asked me all about myself and wanted to discuss whether the process was the art in Christo'sart. As her tour bus got readyto leave, she turnedback to me abruptlyand said: "You know, even our conversation just now was almostan imperative." There were Ruby and Les Golonski, a couple in their fifties from Los Alamitos, California,who stood eating hot dogs as they looked at the ex-

Christo 89



_io. -

. In this view of The Umbrellas, we are look-


~ 4:~ !'il 'yellow



X ?ing

's southoverCalfornia Interstate at thetrailof 5
umbrellas. (Photo Doris Stewart,courtesy by of the San Francisco :Chronicle)

"~ ii~~~~L~~~~~;,


hibit. "I think it's beautiful," Ruby said. "The umbrellas are like silk. I think maybe they should auction them off or something, give the money to charity when they close it." Les: "It's kind of nice, because nowadays anything anybody does, they've calculated what the return is going to be, and this guy, he's not getting any money from us. These people [he gestured at the concession stand nearby] are making a few nickels, but we can come here and see it without spending a red cent, so that's kind of interesting." Ruby: "Yeah, it's kind of like art for everybody, you know, for the whole world really." There was 9-year-old Ansley Andrews, a girl from Fresno who'd just finished driving around the umbrellas exhibit with her mother. "They were



fabulous,"she said. "They were big too." I asked her why she thought Christo wanted to put them up. "Well,"she said after a few moments of thought, "I think he wanted to make people have more fun these days." Visitorsspoke in metaphorand simile as they viewed the artwork."It's as though he sprinkled the umbrellas,"said a man to his companion as they sat eating lunch under an umbrellaand pointing at distanthills. "Like plantingumbrellaseeds,"she said. Earlyone morning I met Myra, a slenderwoman in her fiftieswearing a yellow blouse the color of the umbrellas ("I didn't realize it matched when I put it on this moring") and smiling with delight as she snapped pictures of the exhibit. She asked whether I'd seen the review in that morning'sLosAngelesTimesin which art critic Christopher Knight panned The Umbrellas "lame"and "emptyof transformative as effect"(I99I). "He's so wrong," Myrna said, gesturingat the other smiling visitors who wandered around her. "This is joyful! Look how much joy this is bringing people!" Then there was Lawrence Garcia, a man headed for a solo weekend campingtrip in the mountainswho stopped his Jeep Eagle beside an umbrella to talk. He wore hiking boots and a fedora. He wanted to know whether Christo needed any more monitorsfor the next weekend, because he wanted to sign up. Before he left he pulled a slim wedge of wood from the ribbon of his fedora and gave it to me. The printing on the wedge said: "The Matchless Table Leveler. Restores Balance in a Dangerously UnbalancedWorld." "I invented it," he told me. "I invent things under the nameJack Catholic." "That'sthe most handsomeman I've ever seen," saidJackie,my 58-yearold monitor partner, LawrenceGarciadrove away. I had to agree. as By this time Bob had arrivedin Califoria, and he paid me occasional visits at my monitor site as he drove around exploring the artwork.I felt both startledand comforted whenever I saw his familiarface coming toward me under the umbrellas. One afternoonI encountereda young man and woman sitting under an umbrella,each looking out in a differentdirection. The woman told me she was an artistwho sets up "littlescenes in my studio and paintswatercolors of them." She said she'd been feeling depressed because of the slumping art market-"People are just not buying art"-and her husband had been down about his slow constructionbusiness. They'd decided to drive out to see the umbrellas cheer themselvesup. The woman smiled. to "It's inspiringjust sitting under them. They look like music to me," she said, pointing at the up-and-downlines of distantumbrellas.But her husband fired a barrageof questions at me: "He spent $26 million for this? Jeez. Who's he going to sell them to when it's over?Huh-they're going to be recycled?Why doesn't he just sell them?" The woman looked at me and said: "I can understandspending $26 million for something like this. This is necessary-this is food for the spirit." Her husband sat scowling, unimpressed. And there was the bus driverfrom Bakersfield, Hispanicwoman in her a thirties who was overjoyed at The Umbrellas. shook my and Jackie's She hands, then asked us to pose for pictures under the umbrellasand even sign our autographs."This is so wonderful,"she told us. "Everyonewho lives around here has been so different since these umbrellas came. Everyone's more excited-they're nicer, they're happier,they're more polite." "It'sgoing to be so hard to go back to regularsociety afterthis,"Jackie said to me with a sigh.

Christo 9I My last afternoonas a monitor I stood alone on a hilltop under an umbrella, in the wind and slantingsun, watching the trafficmove along the highway below. Up that high, there was no noise. I felt dusty, tired, and extremelypeaceful. I felt more full of possibilitythan I'd felt in a long time. -Ellen Walterscheid

An Outsider'sView
I first saw The Umbrellas from about five miles away on Saturday afternoon, 12 October 1991, as I drove alone in a sluggish rental car south from Bakersfield to Gorman, California, a distance of about 40 miles. Gorman is a small town just off Interstate5 situatedon the south end of Christo's 18 miles of umbrellas.This was the first weekend of the show, and I was on my way to meet Ellen Walterscheid a late fast-foodlunch for at Carl'sJr. Restaurant Gorman. Ellen had left Bakersfieldin her own in car before dawn that morningto get to the crew gatheringsite near Frazier Parkby sunrise.I'd arrivedby air in California the evening before and late had slept in at the motel. From five miles away, I could see two sunlit barrenpeaks rising on either side of the highway and hundreds of dots of yellow umbrellaslike dandelionsrunningjaggedly from the small town of Grapevinebelow up the sides of the two mountains.As I got nearerthe town, I saw huge clusters of umbrellasin the valley and many more on the sides of hills. The spectaclewas awesome. I was struckby how closely the real thing looked to Christo's preliminary colored drawings, copies of which Ellen had shown me more than a year before. But the drawings in no way could capturethe scope of what I was seeing. It was exciting-a little breathtakwere not something simply ing. My heart rate speeded up. The umbrellas addedto the natural terrain; they blendedwith it, enhancedit. Just after I'd spotted the first umbrellason the two peaks appproaching truck, probablyheaded for Los Angeles. Grapevine,I passed a semitrailer The driver was craning his neck, looking all around. He seemed a little what these hundredsof yellow umbrellas puzzled, not quite understanding planted along Interstate5 and running up into the mountainswere doing there. He had not expected them? Who knows? But he was grinning broadly,partlyin disbelief. As I passedthe town of Grapevine,with its large bunches of umbrellas, the terrain got much steeper, and my rental car slowed noticeably as I drove through Tejon Pass and saw the small village of Lebec off to the west. Lebec, I learnedlater,was the publicityheadquarters The Umbrelfor las, where visitors could obtain maps, press releases,fabric swatches, and informationof all kinds about the project. All aroundwere large, sun-colored umbrellas-hundredsof them in every direction-with people sitting underneathand walking among them. People were smiling; nearly everyone was taking pictures. Helicopters carryingspectatorsraced across the peaks, though it's worthwhile noting that Christo had suggested that on the ground, in an automobile,was the best way to view The Umbrellas. In contrast,he'd said yearsbefore that the best way to view Surrounded Islands was from above-from the bridges,the high-risebuildingsaround the bay, and from the air.



The trafficgot much heavieras I saw signs for the Gormanexit ahead. When I pulled onto the exit ramp,I had to wait with a stringof other cars before I could tur right on the frontageroad leadingto Carl's UmbrelJr. las were planted right in the center of town near the gas station and the restaurant. was a little late and had trouble finding a parking space beI cause the streetwas jammed with other vehicles also tryingto park.But finally I pulled the car into a spot some distance from the restaurant.I walked past the numerouskitsch merchantshawking unauthorized T-shirts and mementos. It was hot. Ellen said temperatures been in the 9os all had that week during the raising and opening of the umbrellas.There was a grandcrunchof people, most of them with cameras,in this little town that had never seen so many people nor such an event. And never would again.There was a festive carival atmosphere,a cross between MardiGras and BroadwaynearTimes Squareon a summer'safternoon. Carl'sJr. was packed with diners, and I couldn'tfind Ellen either inside or outside. But finallywe spotted one another-she was late too-and both of us asked in unison, "Where'veyou been?"It turned out the traffichad slowed her down too. I felt like a stage-door johnny picking up a famous actress.She was glowing. She was still in her costume: Christo hard hat, Christo tunic, jeans, and constructionboots, which she'd bought a month earlierat Wal-Martin Lawrence,Kansas.Her tunic and jeans were a little muddy from all the days she'd worked in them. And she was a little sunburnt.But she was glowing. Finally we got some lunch. She was excited-so many people, so crowded-and we admiredthe variousvistastogetherthroughthe windows of the restaurant. was spillingout the events of the day, talkingabout She the people she'd met as a monitor and what they'd said about how wonderfulthis whole thing was, how moved most people seemed to be by the sight of the umbrellas.But she also mentioned some who seemed a little confusedabout what was going on. A man sitting alone at anothertable said he'd come up from Los Angeles on a motorcycle. He asked how many more miles north did the umbrellasgo. Ellen said, "This is only the beginning. They go for another almost 18 miles and end at Grapevine."The man with the motorcycle looked surprised.Shakinghis head in belief/disbelief,he said: "Boy, that's really something." Ever the worker/monitor, although she was off duty, Ellen said, "You ought to go see all of them-and take a few side roads." Over the three days I viewed the umbrellas,friendlyconversationslike this with strangersconstantlysprangup. And I don't think it was simply because I was dealing for the most part with laid-backCalifornians. With Christo'sumbrellas a point of collective focus, we all had the same thing as in common: we were perpetually surrounded these yellow structures. by There was an unmistakable auraof community.Accordingto newspaper reports,members of the CaliforniaHighway Patrolwere greatlysurprised at how well-mannered, well-behaved,and orderlythe crowds were. Traffic on Interstate during The Umbrellas reportedas io times heavierthan was 5 normal.During our telephone interview severalmonths laterwith Christo andJeanne-Claude, said the chief of the California Jeanne-Claude Highway Patrolhad told her that "neverin his entire careerdid he have so few accidents on Highway 5 as during The Umbrellas" (1992). After lunch, Ellen and I got into my sluggish rental car (which we cheerfullydumped that evening) and drove before sunset up into the side roadsaroundGormanand eventuallythe whole I8-milelength of Interstate 5. In Gorman, we saw the small pond where Christo had plantedseveral umbrellasin water, though it was rumored (and Christo in our interview

Christo 93

confirmed) that water had to be piped in to keep this pond afloat. Near the Tejon Ranch, we saw horses romping together in a meadow surroundedby umbrellas. were stunnedby vistaswhere we saw hundreds We of umbrellas all directions.We drove up scenic Digier Road and tried to in spot the distantsite, high up, where a few days earlierEllen and her crew had erected I9 umbrellas GrapevinePeak. Her group had named themon selves the Condor Club and had made up a rap song about themselves. We weren't sure we'd found the Condor Club's umbrellas,high up, dotting the peak. But maybe. Ellen took a few pictures, just in case we'd spotted the right ones. Over the next two days (Sunday and Monday, 13 and 14 October before dawn with Ellen, she driving.Each of those I991), I left Bakersfield two days, we would see the umbrellasrising up from Grapevineinto the mountains just as dawn was breaking. And we'd get a little excited. "They'restill there!"I'd say. And then we would go to the crew meeting Park,and she would get on a minibuswith other monitors point in Frazier and be taken to her site for the day. I would drive away in her car and have breakfast along the highway. Alone I saw the horses frequentlyagain in the meadow surroundedby umbrellas.Alone I saw people enclosed, from the sun in parched California)by sheltered, protected (particularly Christo'swhimsicalartwork.I talkedwith people about nothing in particular but only about The Umbrellas. went to the pond again near Gorman I where umbrellaswere set in water. I went up scenic Digier Road at least twice every day. And, like others, I took pictures. . . In the afternoon,I'd try to find where Ellen was monitoringand sit under an umbrellawith her. One day I talked with one of her co-workers, Joe Murphy,who gave me one of his "peacepieces,"a tiny ceramicsculpture with a hole in the center, intended as part of a "peace chain." And then Ellen would be off work by 3:00 p.m. and we'd eat lunch. Once againwe went to Carl's in Gorman.Another day, we went for a beer at Jr. Okie Girl Restaurantand Brewery in FrazierPark, which Ellen told me was the favoritehangout for the crew workers. Later,we'd tour The Umbrellas together until sunset, taking pictures, sometimes arguing about ridiculous things, sometimesimportantthings, sometimes hugging, laughing, makingjokes, watchingpeople. And those final two days I was in California,after sunset, in the dark, Ellen and I would drive those 40 miles back to Bakersfield,passingsigns indicating roads to such small towns as Weed Patch, Pumpkin Center, and Greensfield. Then we'd bring back food to eat at the motel and watch the World Series and the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill confrontation on television. On the morning of IS October, we ate breakfastat a restaurantin Bakersfield. Our waitress,a woman named Robin, asked if we were going to see the umbrellas.Ellen said she'd worked on them. Robin was impressedand told us about how much she'd loved seeing the umbrellas and how she'd told off severalstodgy members of her church who'd said the $26 million might have been better spent. Robin had told them: "Look, this is his hobby. If he wants to spend all that money and let us see the umbrellasfor free, that's his business."After breakfast Ellen drove me to the airport,kissed me goodbye, and put me on a plane back to Kansas. Then she took off for San Franciscoin her car to see an old high school girlfriendand her husbandin their new home. And I didn't see her again safelyback in Kansasuntil the evening of Saturday, October. Except for 26 the four days in California,we'd been apartthe whole month and it was good to be togetheragain.

94 Findlay/Walterscheid But that same Saturdayevening of reunion was the night we saw on CNN Headline News that, during a sudden storm, a young woman had died afterbeing struckby a dislodgedumbrellaon Digier Road, our favorite vista. We'd been to a play (The SingularLife of Albert Nobbs) that evening and had come back to my place for a late dinner. I was in the kitchen making the meal; Ellen was near the television but reading the neitherof us was payingmuch attentionto the television until newspaper; we heardthe news of the accident. It was not easy eating dinner.We even got into a smallargumentabout whose fault it was that someone had died. I'd made referenceto the wind tunnel tests in Canada,how the Christo group had carefullyverified the strengthof the umbrellastructures."There must have been a miscalculation," I said. Ellen claimed that the winds must have exceeded what the umbrellaswere tested for, and I eventuallyconfirmedher opinion. But a great cloud of sadness hung over us that night and for many days after. When laterthat night we heardthat Christo in Japanhad orderedthe umbrellas closed immediately and was headed for California, I told Ellen: "He's doing the right thing." Our sadness furtherintensified a few days laterwhen we learnedthat a Japaneseworker dismantling umbrellaalso an had died. I've asked myself in the months since viewing The Umbrellas Califorin nia whether their powerful effect upon me had to do with the artworkitself, with seeing them with Ellen, or with the two accidentaldeaths that occurred at the end of the project. Maybe all three are explanations. I know I was awed and moved in California before the deathsby simply the of so many umbrellas, so well placed, the happy faces of people sight viewing them and walking and sitting among them. I felt a very strong communal sense with those who, as I, had come to view this enormous artwork.It was fun, it was whimsical,it was something totally out of the ordinary.It was something that brought viewers a bit closer to one another simply by their mutualfocus. Surely,despiteEllen'sand my little arguments, I think we both felt even closer to one another in this environmentof umbrellas that Christohad createdfor us. But the two deaths do, in some way, play into my feelings about The Umbrellas: such a beautifulyet ephemeraluniting of art and human bethat of ings with the naturalenvironmentunderscoresthe ephemerality everyand thing-the environmentitself, life itself, relationships, art too. The two deaths were accidentalyet underscoresomething of the work's metaphor of ephemerality, which opens into a clusterof endlessmetaphors.As I approach my 6oth birthdaythis year, I have thoughts and feelings like this more frequentlythan I did at 35. Christo's Umbrellas simply has set such thoughtsand feelingsin motion. -RobertFindlay

After the UmbrellasClosed Both the lush green valley in Japan and the dry parchedlandscapein Californiahave been restoredto their naturalconditions. The land looks just as it did before Christo, his advisors,and workers raisedtheir 3,100 umbrellas. Christo: The removalis entirelyfinished. [In California] [hadto] rakethe we land to guardagainsterosion. And the removalphasewent quite fast

Christo 95

in Japanbecausethere was no rakinginvolved and also there were fewer umbrellas remove there. Everythingis now done. (1992) to The Umbrellas, Japan-USAI984-91 now exists only in individualand ultimately collective memory, assistedby the millions of photographstaken by spectator/witnessesand official photos by Christo's photographer,the filmed documentary, and the huge book to be published by Harry N. Abrams,Inc. Inevitablythe projectwill be associated,at least in part,with the two accidentaldeaths that occurred.But, perhapsmore importantly, it will be rememberedtoo as a large, ambitious artwork.With presumably few exceptions, the artworkwas seen in totoon both continents by only Christo,Jeanne-Claude,and Christo'scentralgroup of engineers,organizet ers, filmmakers, photographers, al. So in a sense, the artworkwill exist in a kind of mythology for most who saw only a part of it. One can only presume that the sense of community that occurredin Californiaalso occurredin Japan. Since the realization and closing of The Umbrellas October 1991, in Christo andJeanne-Claude have not had a particularly easy time of it. The two accidentaldeathsassociatedwith the project,though covered by liabilWhen Lori Rae Keevil-Mathews ity insurance,were particularly disturbing. died in California,Christo immediatelyorderedthe project closed "out of respect to her memory." A New YorkTimesarticle by William Grimes states:"Friendsof the artistsay that he was devastatedwhen he heard of the death in California"(1991). FilmmakerAlbert Maysles reported that Christo had wept, something Maysles had never seen before. Later,with the death of Japanesecrew worker MasaakiNakamurain Japan,Christo's griefwas compounded. In our telephone interview the following February, Christo reflectedon the two deaths: It's reallyterriblethatwe have a tragedy,but it's somethingmiraculous that it did not happenbefore with some other project.We have 2,000 plus workers,3 million visitors,and, of course, a very public space. So much chance that somethingcan go wrong. We were more concernedthat the helicopterswould collide. Really,in the case of Ms. Mathews,she and her husbandhad admiredthe work. The irony is that she died at the projectratherthan somebodyjust passingby. Christo plans to dedicate the book on The Umbrellas the memory of to Lori Rae Keevil-Mathews MasaakiNakamura. and The Grimes articlesuggeststhat because of the two deaths Christo will face great difficultyin enlistingthe cooperationof public agencies. Grimes quotes James Clark, executive director of the Public Art Fund in New York City, as saying:"[The deaths]can'thelp but have an impactwhen review boardsand agencies look at proposals." And Grimes also assertsthat insurancecompaniesmay become wary of underwriting Christoproject. a Despite the sadness and uncertainties-and the fact that Christo and still Jeanne-Claude have to pay back the bank loans for The Umbrellas-they are both positive and hopeful, and with good reason. Shortly before we 1992, they hadjust returnedfrom Berlin, where spoke to them in February they had been negotiating positively with German government officials about the realization of their long-standing "project in progress" titled This is a project proposed exactly 20 years ago but esWrapped Reichstag. sentially ignored by German authorities.Helmut Kohl, for example, had said severalyears ago that the Reichstagwould not be wrappedas long as


Findlay/Walterscheid he was chancellor. Nonetheless, with the reunification of Germany and the moving of the capital from Bonn to Berlin, the whole atmosphere has changed. As Jeanne-Claude said, "lt used to be Christo and I would knock our heads on closed doors [about Wrapped Reichstag]every time. Now the president of the Bundestag [Rita Siissmuth] sent us a fax to come see her. We of course accepted the invitation immediately-you bet." And Christo added: The president of the Bundestag is one of the most popular politicians in Germany-also very powerful-and can make decisions much more freely without consulting the chancellor. With the reunification of Germany and especially last June, [the decision] to move the capital to Berlin, of course that was the enormous change. And the idea of what the building should be not only politically but urbanistically. [The building is] still a focal point of everything that is happening in Berlin in the late 20th century. [That's] probably why she's interested in it now. Of course there's a lot of historical reason. We are confronted with symbols. Though plans are still tentative, Christo sees the possibility of realizing in Wrapped Reichstag 1994 or 1995.

i. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from interviews conducted by the author during October I991.

Bentley, Eric "Dear Grotowski: An Open Letter from Eric Bentley." The New Yor 1969 Times, 30 November, section 2:I, 7, I8. Chon, Richard "Umbrellas Mirror Life's Unpredictability. The Bakersfield 1991 Californian,I October:AI, A6. Christo, et al.
1973 1977


ValleyCurtain.New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. RunningFence.New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Surrounded Islands.New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Christo, and Jeanne-Claude Christo-Javacheff "Christo: The Umbrellas, Joint Project Japan and USA." Press release, 20 1991 for September. 1992 Telephone interview with co-authors. 19 February. Goodwin, Morgan E. "Christo's Umbrellas Will Be Recycled." AmericanMetal Market 99, 6 I991 November:8. Grimes, William "Umbrellas' Closing Leaves Christo with Empty Palette." The New York 1991 Times, 12 November: C3, Ci8. Huber, August L., III Interview with Ellen Walterscheid. FrazierPark, CA, 7 October. i99I Knight, Christopher "The Umbrellas of Christo." The Los AngelesTimes, I October:FI, Fi8. 1991

Christo 97 Richard Schechner,
1976 "From Ritual to Theatre and Back." In Ritual, Play, and Performance. Edited by Richard Schechner and Mady Schuman, 196-222. New York: Seabury Press.

van der Marck, Jan "Christo: the Making of an Artist." In Christo:Collection Loanfrom the on 1981 Rothschild Bank AG, Zurich.La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art. Walterscheid, Ellen "Huber's PracticalTouch Perfects Christo's Umbrella Organization 1990 KansasAlumni Magazine,June:4o-4I. "Blood, Sweat and Thousands of Umbrellas." The Kansas City Star, 13 I991 October:Ji, J8.

Robert Findlay is Professor theatreandfilm at the Universityof Kansas. He of is co-author with Oscar G. Brockett the recently of publishedsecondeditionof Cenon tury of Innovation (Allyn and Bacon, I991), and his articles modem and contemporary theatre have appeared in TDR, Theatre Journal, and Modern Drama. Findlay's research Christo has been supported grantsfrom the Theon by atre and Film Faculty Department Fund and the General ResearchFund of the Universityof Kansas.

Ellen Walterscheid is afreelancewriterand editorliving in Lenexa, Nebraska. She is a frequent contributor suchpublications the Kansas City Star, Kansas to as Live!, Women in Business, and Kansas Alumni Magazine. City

Robert Findlay was co-author of "Grotowski's Laboratory Theatre," vol. 30, no. 3 (TIII), 1986.