CHRISTO and JEANNE CLAUDE (Not) at Smith

Have you heard of artists Christo and Jeanne Claude? One of their best known “exhibits” took place in 2005 in New York, when the pair “wrapped” Central Park in a thousand brilliant saffron banners, or “Gates”, to produce a stunning show which either outraged or delighted spectators. There was not much opinion in between! I was a skeptic but became a believer. They’ve wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin, and the Pont Neuf in Paris, among other works. Wit, whimsy, spectacle, audacity, gorgeousness —the couple has it all. (Or had. Jeanne Claude died not long ago and Christo carries on alone.)  Art critic David Bourdon described their work as “revelation through concealment.” If you’re curious, the link above will show you many of their exhibits, always on the grandest of scales.

So, when my cousins and the Hub and I saw this unexpected sight as we were walking downtown in Northampton on the grounds of nearby Smith College, my first thought was of Christo!

Christo at Smith?

But yards and yards of tee shirts would be Christo on a miniscule scale. Highly unlikely. On we walked, and on rolled the tee shirts:

On roll the tee shirts ---

On strolled our cousins toward the Smith College Art Museum, our destination for the afternoon. She is a Smith alumna and took the manifestation in imperturbable stride, while I stayed behind to capture more of the shirts. Either this was a “happening,” an outdoor art exhibit, or there had been a giant wash-in earlier on the campus.

"Christo" at Smith

It was a Sunday, and there were no students around, so we never did find out the nature of the spectacle. But we enjoyed it all the same. One thing for sure: that day the students were letting it all hang out!

(Smith College is a prestigious all-women’s liberal arts college. Back in the day, that is, back in MY day, Smith was one of the so-called Seven Sisters, the female equivalents of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and company. (The sisters are now five: Besides Smith, there is Wellesley, my own alma mater, and Barnard,  Mount Holyoke, and Bryn Mawr. Vassar is now co-ed, and Radcliffe was swallowed up into Harvard.) It may be hard for some of you to credit, but those famed colleges, the creme de la creme of American higher education, were exclusively male well into the sixties and sometimes way beyond.)

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21 Responses to CHRISTO and JEANNE CLAUDE (Not) at Smith

  1. It’s always neat when we see something different or unusual and never quite find out its reason or meaning . Puts a bit of spice into the day!

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  2. Marvelous whether done by Christo or the women of Smith…………..I LOVE it! So glad you shared this. For some reason it really brightened my day and lifted my spirits!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Well, Emil, YOU just brightened my day and lifted my spirits! It’s feels so good to share something that someone else enjoys.
      (P.S. It’s snowing here today, first of the season, and I can use something to brighten my day.)

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  3. brenda says:

    My association with a Women’s Center located on an university campus utilized this theme as a way to awaken others about rape.

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Interesting. Do you think it was effective at your university?
      (I’m assuming that since this exhibit had no message to be gleaned — the medium itself WAS the message. As Marshall McLuhan so truly said long ago.)

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  4. Gemma says:

    I vaguely remember seeing something about the NY exhibit. Dropped by the Gates link. Very interesting. Love the blue umbrellas :-).
    I’m thinking since all you saw hanging were t-shirts, it must have had some significance besides someone’s mother stopping by to do laundry. Neat photos. :-D.

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  5. I loved what I saw of Smith. My daughter Bea almost went there, and I know she could have been very happy there. I love this colorful post!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      I almost went there myself, thousands of years ago.
      Where did Bea go instead? How is the college experience for her?

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      • Bea was accepted and offered a scholarship for about half her tuition, but Stanford accepted her and offered her a much better scholarship, an offer she couldn’t refuse. She loves Stanford, and is very involved in extracurricular activities. She is a costume designer for the Stanford Shakespeare Company, she has taught novel writing for the local high school kids, and took an intensive First Aid and CPR class so that she can lead incoming freshmen in backpacking and hiking pre-orientation trips. But I know she would have loved Smith too.

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        • Touch2Touch says:

          It sounds like it all worked out wonderfully, though! And she sounds like a very accomplished, compassionate, and mature young woman. She probably would have loved wherever she went; some people have a gift for doing that. (An important gift it is, too.) You must be very proud of her.
          🙂

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  6. mybrightlife says:

    I love it when the ‘everyday’ is used to create bold statements (whatever that statement may be..)
    Had no idea that the Ivy League Schools were male only for so long. As my husband points out, the 60’s was some time back – but I still think about it being just the other day – (I was born in ’68). I still think that 2000 was just last year! Life goes by too fast!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      And (to alert you, not exactly to alarm you) it keeps going faster and faster and faster — Einstein never talked about that, I think.
      Interesting that all the Ivy Leagues are now coed, but five of the Seven Sisters remain all-women’s.
      (As an alum of one, and a woman in today’s world, I believe the need is still there.)

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  7. Patti Kuche says:

    I admire your calm speculation as to the significance of the t-shirts! I would absolutely want to know all about it if only because I would drive myself potty with all sorts of ideas!

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    • Touch2Touch says:

      Let’s see. You could choose the pottiest idea, and decide that was it — 😉

      As a born and bred New Yorker (even more, a Brooklynite) I think perhaps I have a high tolerance for weirdness. We used to joke that someone could come and walk down the streets of Manhattan naked and not raise any eyebrows. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s happened — and continues.

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  8. PragueByKaty says:

    T.shirts are nice, I would love to have something like this here … thanks

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  9. frizztext says:

    cheap Christo version – not so expensive as usual …

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