Skeptics and self-acclaimed art critics are probably helping to justify their disdain of the Christo project by the fatal accident that occurred Oct. 26. While the loss of life was tragic, it was an accident, as much as a fatal automobile accident, or even a plane crash. But no one would suggest we stop riding in automobiles or flying in airplanes.
Over the 2 1/2-week span of the project I personally escorted 325 people, by bus, to view the umbrellas in the Tejon Pass--just as I have in the last 10 years taken art tours to the Olympic Arts Festival, the Impressionist exhibits and many other great art events in Los Angeles. I can honestly say that no other exhibit has elicited such an exhilarating emotional response as Christo's yellow umbrellas. His poetic vision, expressed so beautifully on the hills of Gorman, Lebec and the Tejon Pass made our hearts soar.
But fate was to play her unkind hand. Those who condemn Christo could only be those who, to their great loss, refused to dance in the shade of the umbrellas.
I returned through the Tejon Pass on Sunday with a bus group that had stopped at the umbrellas on our way north on Oct. 26, the day of the accident. Everyone was somber as we drove through the closed umbrellas. No one suggested it has been for naught; in fact, they were very grateful they had been able to see the umbrellas open and shining. But as we shared Christo's joy, we also shared his sorrow. He had touched our souls, for better and for worse, and for it all, the whole experience, we are grateful.