Christo and Jeanne-Claude: A Partnership of Joy and Beauty

Submitted by Evelyn Kiefer on Tue, 05/23/2006 - 21:46.


When a woman in the audience asked Christo and Jeanne-Claude how they define art, Jeanne-Claude  said they don't define art they make art. She went on to say that they make art because "it is our life" and all their works are works of "joy and beauty."

Christo and Jeanne-Claude were both born on June 13th 1935. They have been married for 48 years and they have been artistic partners as well since they met in Paris in the 50s (though Jeanne-Claude has only taken credit for her half since  1994). They emigrated to the United States in 1964 and have lived in SoHo ever since. Their slide show/Q & A/ book signing at Severence Hall was extremely entertaining and inspiring. The CMA's new director, Timothy Rub was there to introduce the artists. The audience had great questions and the couple (Jeanne-Claude a bit more than Christo) answered them in their charming, witty style. I came away with a much greater appreciation for their work.  They are a very creative pair with a wonderful out look on life, who obviously love what they do. Jeanne-Claude said the ideas for all their projects "come out of our hearts and our heads." They never take suggestions for projects. Once concieved, their projects take incredible patience and determination -- most take years to get the necessary permission and permits. Once given the go ahead though, public ethusiasm seems to grow quickly. All of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's projects are very short-lived. Most last 14 days. The brief duration is a calculated element of the aesthetic quality intended to generate that tenderness and love people are prone to feel for things that don't last. Jeanne-Claude said their favorite phrase is "once upon a time." A teacher asked them what advice they have for high school students. Jeanne-Claude said -- quite seriously-- "work (at what you want to do) 17 hours a day, 7 days a week with no vacation, but the hardest part is finding what you want to do."

Their passion for art is contagious!

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I didn't show, couldn't go, thanks for putting me in the KNOW.  Best, jeff

Artists - we are always lucky to have them here

I wish I'd been able to go to this - it is so interesting to learn about life from really experienced, confident artists, like Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

The last really revealing artist talk I saw was David Byrne in Akron - and Mel Chin at CIA was great... I'd love to see many more.

I was surrounded by artists tonight, too, helping a film student make a short film. I was thinking how natural these people are in what they do - whether camera work, lighting, acting or directing - it's really interesting to be with people who make art.

But it wasn't until after the crew had all left tonight that I realized the quietest guy at the shoot was Johnny Zero of the Dead Boys - a punk legend only we have in Cleveland, helping out on a film on a Tuesday night. Gotta love it.