Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nothing but blue skies from now on

Gates 59, 2005

“Blue skies

Smiling at me

Nothing but blue skies

Do I see”

From Blue Skies, Irving Berlin

I heard Rebecca Kilgore sing Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies the other day on Riverwalk, Live from the Landing, a radio program celebrating American jazz of the first half of the Twentieth Century. (You can hear Ella Fitzgerald’s version of Blue Skies here.) I see blue skies all the time (both literally and metaphorically). But on the day I heard Kilgore sing Blue Skies, I was taken back to a cold Saturday morning in New York City.

In February of 2005 my wife and I went to New York for the weekend to visit our daughter. Saturdays in New York are family time. We spend the day with our daughter and her husband joins us for dinner. Before that happens, though, I try to get in a little photo time early in the morning.

I hadn't known that our visit that particular weekend would coincide with the unveiling of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Gates project. Just after 6:00 a.m. on that bitter Saturday morning I walked up Sixth Avenue to Central Park, where I found more than seven thousand saffron-colored vinyl "gate" frames straddling the park’s winding paths and walkways.

Gates 50, 2005

At first I had no idea what was going on. But as I walked through the park I was mesmerized by the frames and the way they imposed a linear order on the sinuous walkways of Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's magnificent (and completely fabricated) park.

I took a lot of pictures that morning. Each turn in the path opened a new vista made vivid by the saffron-colored rectangles. Walking through the gates was like walking through a succession of tall doorway.

I wasn't in the park later in the day when the saffron colored fabric that had been rolled up on top of the frames when I’d been there in the morning was unfurled. To be honest, when I returned to the park just after dawn the next morning even the bright blue sky could not shake the claustrophobia I felt walking underneath the swaying fabric. I heard Christo and Jeanne-Claude interviewed several times that weekend about their artistic intentions for the Gates project. I concluded, though, that I liked the bare frames more than when they were draped in fabric.

“Blue days

All of them gone

Nothing but blue skies

From now on.”

Gates 154, 2005

Gates 157, 2005


  1. You got such great photos of that. I'd have loved to have seen the Gates. I admit that I love the way the light is hitting the orange drapes of fabric here, especially in this last shot. Beautiful!

  2. Hi Chris - I saw them during the time they were being taken down so some were still draped and some were just the frames... I liked seeing the combination of both.