Week Fifty Two

Jeanne-Claude, 1935-2009

Posted in Art news, Uncategorized by sarahbakerhansen on 20 November 2009

Jeanne-Claude was – and will probably remain – the most difficult interview I have ever done.

She and her husband, Christo, came to Omaha’s Kaneko last September to give an art talk about their two yet unfinished projects, “Over the River” and the “Mastaba.” The event, which I was writing about for the Omaha Reader and blogged about here, marked the end of my time working with them; I remember what happened before that much more than I remember anything they said that night.

I was meant to interview Christo, but it became clear right away that it was Jeanne-Claude who ran the show. She didn’t have a cell phone and if she did, she never gave out the number. She didn’t have an e-mail. She did, however, have an assistant and a fax machine, and that’s how she did business. She was the only subject that gave me a “reading assignment” before agreeing to work with me. Before I said a word on the day of the interview, she asked me if I did my homework.

Many people I’ve interviewed have asked me to fax them the finished story before it runs. Jeanne-Claude was the only one who got her way.

It’s easy to say someone is a difficult subject. Jeanne-Claude was. But she was also powerful. She loved her husband deeply and relished telling the story of how they met, and of how they were born on the same day in 1935.  She seemed a reluctant fashionista, with her fiery orange hair, slim denim jeans and anorak jackets. She loved art. She also wanted things to be right, and that explained her drive toward complete control when it came to working with reporters.

Jeanne-Claude, Collaborator with Christo, dies at 74, via the New York Times.

Thanks to Chris Machian of Minorwhite Studios for allowing Week Fifty Two to publish some of its photos of Christo and Jeanne-Claude during their visit to Omaha last September.