Christo's umbrellas dot hillside

October 10, 1991|By David Colker | David Colker,Los Angeles Times

FORT TEJON, Calif. -- More than 1,700 giant yellow umbrellas fluttered open yesterday on the barren, tan slopes of the Tejon Pass 60 miles north of Los Angeles, completing one of the largest undertakings in modern art history -- the creation of twin forests of colorful canopies in California and Japan by environmental artist Christo.

The strange sight produced jubilation, wisecracks, bafflement and tears of joy from about 10,000 spectators scattered through the sparsely populated hills for the highly publicized event.

"It's like primitive architecture, like the first shelter," Christo staffer Randy Suzuki said as he opened the highest umbrella in the project, atop a hill about 5,040 feet above sea level. "It's beautiful. It's actually really beautiful."

Christo, who spent six years and $26 million of his own money on the project, avoided the limelight during the unveiling, preferring to hike almost alone in the hills among his cabin-sized parasols.

"I am overwhelmed," he said jubilantly, shortly after arriving by helicopter on a mountain peak nearby.

"My wife and I, we only have one child," he said, climbing down a steep ravine near a row of the umbrellas, each weighing 488 pounds and standing almost 20 feet high.

"These are all my children now."

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