Christo’s California Dreamin’

In 1972, artists Christo Jeanne-Claude envisioned building a fence, but it would take a village to make their Running Fence happen

Christo's 24.5-mile-long, 18-foot-high Running Fence graced the hills of two California counties for two weeks in September 1976. (Jeanne-Claude / SAAM)
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Members of Hell’s Angels motorcycle clubs worked alongside art students. And when the fabric fence was finished, visitors from across the country flocked to see the curtains illuminated by the bright California sun, catching the wind like vast sails. “It went on and on and on, twisting and turning over those hills,” Mary Ann says. “It was magnificent.”

Today, in the center of Valley Ford, an American flag hangs on one of the fence’s steel poles, and beneath it Christo’s duct-taped work boots—worn down from walking the length of the fence countless times—are sealed in a metal time capsule. There was even a reunion picnic held in September 2009, which Christo attended with Jeanne-Claude, who died two months later, at age 74.

At the exhibit’s opening, Mary Ann, now 71, wore a shimmering white blazer—made from fence fabric that once graced her father’s land.

“To talk about the fence is one thing; to see it was another,” she says. “It got to you.”


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