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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fifth calendar year
    PCR #199  (Vol. 5, No. 3)  This edition is for the week of January 12--18, 2004.

The “Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida, 1980-1983” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude
 by Will Moriaty
"The Cooler"
 by Mike Smith
BLONDIE Concert Review .... Romeo's 1515 Coffee House .... Nolan's "My First Quasi Death Threat"
 by Andy Lalino
CMGs...."Big Fish"
 by John Lewis
Happy Birthday To Me....Master Of Horror....The Freeze Is On
 by Matt Drinnenberg
It Wasn't Me!...Passing On....Funny Stuff....Meet The Beatles
 by Mike Smith
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The “Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida, 1980-1983” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Public Arts In Florida Defined
The State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs defines Public Art as follows...

“Public Art refers to artwork that is located in the public's space such as in the lobby or outside a state, local government or private facility. Public art is either purchased for the space or an artist will be commissioned to create a special artwork to reflect distinctive qualities of the space, its function, natural surroundings, architectural environment, or neighborhood identity. Public art can celebrate a community's local history or cultural heritage, encourage pride of place and serve as a vital economic development tool.”

Some Examples of Public Arts in the Tampa Area
Examples that Tampa readers of this column might be familiar with would include the Bud Oelson sculpture of horses on Bayshore Boulevard known as “Equinimity’, as well as Mary Ann Unger’s nautilus shell inspired work, “The Wave” also located on Bayshore Boulevard.

In downtown, there is New York sculptor George Shugarman’s 1992 work at Kennedy and Ashley next to the Nations Bank building called “The Exploding Chicken”. At Tampa International Airport, Plantation, Florida sculptor Roy Butler reinforces Tampa Bay’s sense of place with his “Birdsculptures”, comprised of 63 copper birds of five species, including gulls, herons, cormorants, anhingas and pelicans as well as an intricate 15’ tall copper Red Mangrove.

Your Intrepid Author’s Stab At Public Art
Although I assisted Denis Lebrun on and off from 1983 to 2001 with the production of the comic strip “Blondie” (see issues 139 and 140 of PCR for our exclusive interview), I stated to T.R.E.E. Inc. Vice President in 1987 that my tree plantings were my own personal “paint brush”.

I decided in 1990 to take this a stage further by collaborating with New York environmental and public sculpture artist Hera to conduct a public arts project on of one of Hillsborough County’s interstate highways. By the summer of 1991 Hera devised a design of utilizing Lantana shrubs of various colors to be used at the Interstate 75 and Crosstown Expressway interchange, but Hillsborough County declined to maintain such a project, so our collaborative effort fell through.

Nevertheless, Hera has left a wonderful public art project in Tampa with her 1990 work, “Tower as Inland Lighthouse”, which is located at HART line’s Marion Street Transit Parkway (which my immediate boss, John Simpson, RLA was heavily involved with the design and installation of).

Public Arts The Likes of Which Has Never Been Seen In Florida
Florida is blessed with countless stunning and powerful examples of Public Art. In my estimation, even though it is located on a private property, one of the most powerful and profound sculptures that by its high visibility location makes it fit the bill of a Public Arts work, is undoubtedly Kenneth Treister’s “A Sculpture of Love and Agony” located at The Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach. The sculpture is a bronze hand 42’ tall with 130 life-sized figures integrated into it. When in Miami Beach, along with the art deco architecture, you owe it to yourself to visit the Holocaust Memorial. One way or another it is bound to profoundly transform you.

One of the most massive, unique and colorful Public Art undertakings in Florida, however, undoubtedly belongs to the Surrounded Islands work performed between 1980 and 1983 by internationally renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude (more information on this project can be obtained by linking to their official website at http://www.christojeanneclaude.net/si.html).

Aerial view over Biscayne Bay of the Surrounded Islands by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, circa May 1983. Photo by Wolfgang Volz. Copyright 1983 Christo.
A Public Arts Project of Gargantuan Proportion
A total of 11 islands in Biscayne Bay, spanning over 7 miles from the City of Miami northward to Miami Beach, North Miami and the Village of Miami Shores and situated in the areas of Bakers Haulover Cut, Broad Causeway, 79th Street Causeway, Julia Tuttle Causeway and the Venetian Causeway, had their shorelines surrounded by 6.5 million square feet of pink woven polypropylene fabric that covered the surface of the water jutting out 200 feet from each island.

Tropical Pink Islands in the Bay
On May 7, 1983, the installation of the Surrounded Islands was completed. For a two week period it afforded motorists using the causeways mentioned above, adjacent boaters, land dwellers within sight, and passengers flying into or out of Miami International Airport an exquisite view of this masterwork that celebrated the tropical character of Miami through the use of the luminous pink fabric which contrasted with the azure and turquoise Caribbean waters of Biscayne Bay. It definitely let people visiting Miami know that they weren’t in Kansas anymore.

A Permitting Nightmare
Although environmental and maritime permitting in the 1980’s was not as intensive as today, even back then, due to the very nature of the locations of the undertaking, permits were obtained from the Governor of Florida and the Florida Cabinet; the Dade County Commission; the Department of Environmental Regulation; the City of Miami Commission; the City of North Miami; the Village of Miami Shores; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management.

What Did It Take to Construct This Project?
From November 1982 until April 1983 a total of 6,500,000 square feet of the fabric mentioned above was woven into 79 different patterns to follow the contours of the 11 islands in a rented Hialeah factory. A flotation strip was sown into each seam! Playing yet another part in Florida history, the former blimp hanger at the Opa Locka Airport was utilized for the sewn sections to be accordion folded to ease their unfurling into the water.

The outer edge of the fabric was attached to a 12-inch diameter boom in sections the same color of the fabric. This boom was then connected to radial anchor lines extending from the anchors at the islands to 610 specially-made anchors spaced at 50-foot intervals, 250 feet beyond the perimeter of each island, driven into the bay bottom. Earth anchors were driven into the land of the islands near tree trunks in order to secure the landward edge of the fabric that would cover the surface of the beach and disappear under the vegetation.

The floating rafts of this fabric and boom combination varied from 12 to 22 feet in width and 400 to 600 feet in length and were towed through Biscayne Bay to each of the 11 islands (although on two occasions, two islands were surrounded together as one configuration). A crew of 430 people unfurled the pink fabric on May 4, 1983 and Surrounded Islands, like the most gorgeous flower imaginable, would provide us with a two-week show unparallel in the history of Florida’s Public Arts. 120 people in inflatable boats monitored the work 24/7 during its all too-short lifetime.

A tribute to the people, land and water that is called Miami, Surrounded Islands now lives on in memories and photographs only. An artistic point in time never eclipsed in Florida.

Islands Financing
As with previous Christo and Jeanne-Claude art projects, Surrounded Islands was entirely financed by the artists through the sale by C.V.J. Corporation (Jeanne-Claude Christo-Javacheff, President) of the preparatory pastel and charcoal drawings, collages, lithographs and early works.

Many Thanks
I would like to liberally thank Ms. Jeanne-Claude for her gracious assistance in the preparation of this article and permission to utilize the Wolfgang Volz photograph of the Surrounded Islands.

Christo, an American, was born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff on June 13, 1935 to a Bulgarian industrialist family. From 1953-1956 Christo studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria, and in 1957 Christo studied one semester at the Vienna Fine Arts Academy. In 1958 Christo arrived in Paris where he met Jeanne-Claude.

Jeanne-Claude, also an American, was born Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon also on June 13, 1935 in Casablanca to a French military family. Jeanne-Claude was educated in France and Switzerland. In 1952 Jeanne-Claude received a Baccalaureate in Latin and Philosophy from the University of Tunis.

May 11, 1960 marked the birth of their son, Cyril. Cyril Christo is a poet who studied at Cornell University and graduate from Columbia University in 1972. Five books of his poetry have been published and in 1998 he married Marie B. Wilkinson.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude currently live in New York City.

The web link to the site is: http://www.christojeanneclaude.net/si.html

"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.