Christo going ‘Over the River’ |

Christo going ‘Over the River’

Catherine Foulkrod

SALIDA – Walking across the stage hand-in-hand like young lovers, the illustrious landscape-fiber artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude were wrapped in fervent applause.Jeanne-Claude’s bright orange hair and matching hair-tie shone brilliantly under the lights, and a giddy woman in the audience exclaimed, “Right here in little Salida!” The world-famous couple, known for such works as “The Gates” in Central Park (2005), “Wrapped Reichstag” in Berlin (1995) and the “Surrounded Islands” in Miami, Florida (1983), among other projects, were at the Steam Plant Theater in Salida Monday to divulge and discuss plans for their up-and-coming project “Over the River.” The project proposes the suspension of 962 transparent, aluminum-coated fabric panels totaling seven miles, dispersed above a 40-mile stretch of the Arkansas River.The first glimmers of inspiration for “Over the River” appeared under a Parisian sun in 1985. The Bulgarian-born Christo and his French wife, Jeanne-Claude, were on a barge under the Pont Neuf in the process of wrapping the bridge. As the fabric was slowly hoisted into the air, the two momentarily ceased their incessant orders to the crew and “at some point… looked at each other with a big smile,” said Jeanne-Claude. But it wasn’t until 1992 that they asked, “What was that big smile in Paris?” and realized it to be a vision of fabric, sunshine, reflection and shadow over the river.Impetus for a new project in place, the two then set out to the Rocky Mountains and scouted 89 rivers and approximately 15,000 miles over three summers (1992-94). The choices were narrowed to six rivers, then finally to the section of the Arkansas River between Parkdale and the Chaffee County line.”It is a human river, with lots of villages and human activity,” said Jeanne-Claude. A highway runs alongside the river, which will allow visitors to view the installation from busses and cars. Hikers will be able walk down to the river and the panels will be suspended high enough (from a minimum of 8 feet to over 20 feet) that rafters will be able to experience the creation of light and shadows from underneath. Cloud formations, mountain contours, the horizon, and other features of the landscape will be visible through the cloth.”The incredible axis (between banks of the Arkansas) will give incredible light,” said Christo. “And there’s variety of topography … variety of situations, elevation, contour, interruptions-both natural and manmade elements,” which are all appealing to the vision. Other criteria included high banks, a lack of trees, and a moderate width to accommodate the cables that will support the fabric panels.

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