I’ve made no secret I’m a sucker for a good “solid relationship” story.* Nor have I been shy about how I love art. Which means I can’t believe I didn’t realize Christo and Jeanne-Claude were married!
Conceptually, logistically, and creatively, Christo and Jeanne-Claude were more or less indivisible. We probably shouldn’t think this kind of radically egalitarian relationship terribly unusual, in this day and age, when feminism’s various well-advertised social and legislative victories have supposedly left us all more equal in life and in relationships than ever before. But isn’t it wonderful to be reminded that a couple where both members were born (coincidentally, on the same day) in 1935 could see no better way of working together, than to work together?
Especially in the world of visual art, where women involved with great artists have traditionally been consigned to the role of “muse.” Art hinges on the idea of a single creator, and his or her (but usually his) creative vision: that’s why Guernica is art, and those scenic paintings done painstakingly by hand in workshops in China are not. Art historians argue for years over whether a work should be classified as by, for instance, El Greco, or if it was merely done by one of his trainees, because art affirms that the intentions and identity of a work’s creator matters. Even in a collaboration, a partnership, as apparently straightforward as that of Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude, the temptation is always to ask: but who really thought of that? (And then there is the further temptation to assume that it must have been Christo.) His refusal to play along — look at how he corrected that interviewer — is admirable.
How lovely, and how sad that she’s passed.
So these two, who functioned as one, are now only one. Their long companionate marriage is over. I certainly hope that Over The River, when it is erected, can stand as a tribute to the two of them and all they shared.