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!
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 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.
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.)