Three weeks and change after Colorado State Parks issued its long-awaited approval of the artist Christo's proposed "Over the River" (not to mention several more years of infighting and bureaucratic hoop-jumping), the project, which would suspend some 5.9 miles of fabric panels over a stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Cañon City, is still hanging by a figurative thread; though most systems are go at this point, the Federal Bureau of Land Management is taking its sweet time deciding whether or not it wants to give its final go-ahead. And for a project clamored for by nearly every person of artistic note in the state -- plus Governor Hickenlooper, who "unequivocally supports" it -- it's been a whole lot of dawdling around.
It actually would not be the first massive project the artist primarily known for massive projects has mounted in Colorado; back in '70s, when he and his late wife and longtime collaborator Jean-Claude were making their name in the immense installation business, the two managed to pull off "Valley Curtain," a 400-meter cloth stretched across Rifle Gap. It was almost immediately destroyed by wind and rocks, but while it was up there, it was pretty epic.
It's been a long time since then, though, and no doubt that although Jean-Claude died a couple of years ago, the man has the chops to pull off "Over the River" for its proposed two weeks of duration.
In any case, he'll be back in Colorado whether his project is or not tomorrow for a lecture at the Vail Symposium, where perhaps he'll be able to swing the pendulum of public opinion a little further in his favor. But even if we don't get to have "Over the River," we'll at least get to imagine it. And our imaginings will be aided, we daresay, by Christo's beautiful sketches. Keep paging down for more.
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