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Mountain News: For Christo, art is a process, not artifact



BOULDER, Colo. — By the simple measure of engagement, Christo's plans to drape 9.5km of river canyon in Colorado with translucent fabric is already a smashing success. Christo spoke at a forum on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder last Thursday, showing 80 slides of "Over the River," his Colorado project, and those of a project planned in the Mideast. The 1,000-plus seats were all occupied, with hundreds more standing or sitting on the floor.

Christo considers his projects art, although many dispute that. But that is exactly the point. Art is a process.

Speaking with newspapers in Denver and Boulder before his presentation, the 78-year-old Christo explained art typically is a matter of small circles, the connoisseurs. But their projects — he still speaks of his late wife Jeanne-Claude as if she were alive, although she died in 2009 — are in-your-face public. That's intentional.

"For many years, all the people are thinking how the work will be beautiful, how the work will be awful," he told The Denver Post. "Basically the work is working in the mind of the people before it physically exists. This is probably the biggest satisfaction we have — Jeanne- Claude and myself — because this is the only thing artists like to have, whether it's painting or sculpture, to have the people comment and discuss their works."

Speaking with the CU Daily, Christo said that he and his team don't do commissions. "Commissions typically are straightforward as far as presentations is concerned. Where's the fun in that? You're probably going to miss out on all those people discussing the proposed work at public hearings, where the attendees in effect become creative participants."

Among the first projects of the Bulgarian-born Christo and Jeanne-Claude, a native of France, was one in Colorado. At a site called Rifle Gap, the artists unfurled the Valley Curtain in 1972. It fluttered in the canyon gap for 28 hours before strong winds shredded the bright orange fabric.

Later, the couple erected a running fence in California's coastal foothills, placed plastic surrounding islands near Miami, and put a cocoon around Berlin's Reichstag. They passed on this writer's suggestion in the 1990s to create a project near Vail, placing a toupee atop Bald Mountain.

What they did decide was to cover portions of the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City with the translucent fabric. It's a popular segment of river for rafting, and if the project goes — only one lawsuit in federal court stands in the way of implementation — rafters will be able to have a surreal experience.

It won't be natural, however, much to the distress of many objectors, including Rags Over the River. The group filed two unsuccessful lawsuits in an attempt to block the project. But with a river bordered by both a railroad and a highway, the setting is hardly natural, Christo defenders have pointed out.

The cost of the Over the River is $50 million, which Christo is financing through sales of bits of previous projects and sketches and drawings of this project.

Christo isn't standing still, however. He also wants to erect a permanent sculpture in the desert south of Abu Dhabi. It would be larger than the Pyramids.

He's never worked on two projects simultaneously, but Christo tells the Post that at his age, 73, he cannot dawdle. "The stakes: They are higher. The expense: They are higher. The risk: They are higher. But there are no other options. This life, it is not forever."

Beavers busy but boy are they a nuisance!

FRASER, Colo. — Oh, those busy beavers have been up to mischief again. Jeff Durbin, the town manager of Fraser, says the town is out to get all the beavers that have been damming the Fraser River as it flows from Winter Park. However, according to a report in the Sky-Hi News, the town would be a lot better off without the big-toothed rodents.

Beaver carry giardia, a parasite, and their dams create deep ponds that draw moose, which tend to see people and their dogs as predators. Plus, the dams back up water that has been covering segments of the trail adjoining the river.

Fraser has hired trappers, with intention of exiling the beaver to less gentrified settings.

Despite floods, Canmore has huge summer gains

CANMORE, AB — Canmore was in turmoil in June after extended flooding. But the rest of the summer turned out just peachy-keen for the resort town at the entrance to Banff National Park.

So says Tourism Canmore and Kananaskis, which reported 91 per cent occupancy of lodging units during August, a new record, up 16 per cent from the previous year. Customers also paid more, a 7.5 per cent increase in average daily rate.

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